Maybe your daughter has your same shade of dark brown hair or piercing blue eyes. You can’t help yourself, really; every now and then, you don matching dresses, put on a bit of a photo shoot in the backyard and post the photos for all the world to see, #myminime! Who could blame you? The kid is totally your spitting image.
But in a New York Times piece titled “The Possibly Ominous Return of the ‘Mini-Me,’” writer Hannah Seligson tackles whether referring to a kid as your “mini-me” is either a harmless term of endearment or “untrammeled narcissism.”
OK, so calling this phenomenon both ominous and narcissistic is leaning a bit dramatic, particularly because I think it’s rarely said with any kind of ill intent, but I have to agree with her premise. The “mini-me” label has always felt a little ugh to me, much in the same way dressing babies in clothes that say “ladies man” or “never allowed to date” can make me roll my eyes. It’s like we’ve got this insatiable need to project our adult characteristics onto little kids.
Friends, family and acquaintances have referred to my son as a “mini-Mike” many times since he was born. Yes, my son bears a striking resemblance to his father; there is no denying that. But his temperament more closely matches that of his Type A mother (ahem). And he happens to be awesome in ways neither of us are. He loves maths, for example, he can build basically anything from a pile of Legos and he’ll eat all of our discarded black jelly beans.
Mike and I were both considered “shy” as kids, but my son is the one who gathers everyone on the playground for a group game of tag. He very well might be extroverted and that is So Freaking Cool to me that I’d much rather he be himself than a mini-either-one-of-us.
From the time they’re very little, kids are listening to how we describe them. Our words can become part of the baseline for how they define themselves and that means our words should say more about their individuality than it does about some biological need to see ourselves mirrored in the world.
And when you’re saying this about someone else’s kid, keep in mind that the comparison game is almost always a minefield with kids.
My husband and I were foster parents for a few years, and being part of a family that is made up partially of biological children and partially of foster or adoptive children creates a tricky dynamic for everyone involved.
To call my son his father’s mini-me in front of my foster son put an emphasis on the biological connection in a way that elevated one kid and demoted another. And because my first foster son actually did bear a physical resemblance to me and was often assumed to be my biological son, strangers would do this without even realising they were doing it.
To be safe, let’s just let kids be mini versions of their future selves, ok? One of you is probably enough anyway.
(Go ahead and buy those matching “mummy and me” dresses, though. Cuz that shit is just plain adorable.)