Photo by: Latanya Muhammad

Our Children Are Not Us

Photo by: Latanya Muhammad

When I started as an undergraduate, I was determined to tackle the field of medicine. After realizing there was little space in my heart for biology, I decided to change my major. Being my bold self, I did not tell my mother until the deed was done. Eventually we got around to having the conversation, and after a bit of reluctance, she grew to accept my choice to go into a field that offered much less money. (Much less.) That was not the story for some classmates. During an activity, a classmate disclosed that he only majored in biology because his father told him he had to. His father was a doctor and wanted him to become one too. Considering my classmate’s love for art, I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had heard. How could anyone force a child to choose between a passion and a namesake?

Once I became a parent, I saw his father as less of a villain. Not to say he became a hero, but I could better understand his reasoning for pushing his child to enter a career that offered prestige and more financial stability. Stability drives many parents. It was one of my mother’s reasons for never objecting to me envisioning myself as a doctor. She did not want me to have her life, and going into medicine offered the opportunity to go in the opposite direction of what she had chosen.

On the other side of stability, though, is a level of selfishness; an inkling for parents to see themselves in their children. I am guilty of this as well. When my children were born, there was a piece of me that wanted to see my own existence in them. It takes some self-reflecting to understand that in order for this to happen, one would have to cheat their child or children out of becoming their authentic selves. As much as we want to see our achievements shine through in our children, to force them to live our lives would mean a slice of their individuality would have to be pushed aside.

I am all for parents encouraging their children, and pushing them when they see they have the potential to go far, but I can’t help but to feel badly for children when they are living the life of their parents’ choosing. Sometimes it is out of fear of not wanting our children to make the same decisions. Sometimes it is because it sounds better to say, “My child is a doctor just like me.” Even when that feeling only exists because our children want to see us happy, or rather, pleased with their decisions. Sometimes our children do not have the same desire to be what we have chosen to be, or to do what we have chosen to do, and it is simply because our children are not us. Regardless if they have the same temper, are as equally stubborn, or look like carbon copies of us, they are not. Moreover, to put onto our children the expectation that they have to pick up where we left off is unfair.

Although my path has given me satisfaction, I would not want my children to follow it exactly. I want them to see what I have done but more importantly, I want them to forge their own path. Their road map should be reflective of their achievements, not mine. If my children get nothing out of what I have done with my life, I want them to understand two things. One, it is more important that they learn who they are and what they want versus who I think they are and what I think they should want. Two, they can follow my path in the exact same order, or they can take the scenic route and go where I have been too afraid to go and dare to test limits in places where I have typically played it safe. I hope they choose the latter.

Latanya Muhammad is an advisor, group facilitator and freelance writer. To read more of her work, or to connect, visit and Shetanagain Writes on Facebook.

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