Riddle me Mini-Me

By Mir
June 27, 2008

I make a lot of jokes about Chickadee being my Mini-Me. We have a lot of the same likes and dislikes. She has many of my mannerisms. We look alike (although this one is sort of humorous, to me, because in reality I think Monkey has many more of my features than Chickadee, but—just as no one ever noticed that my mother and I looked very similar (probably because my hair is dark and hers is blonde)—folks always comment on how similar Chickadee and I look, never on how much Monkey looks like me.

The point is that in many ways, we are alike. I often assume that I know how she will react to or handle something, because I feel like I know her not just by virtue of being her mom, but because we share so many tendencies.

Of course, there are differences, too. I think I’ll be right on top of how to best deal with those in another ten years or so. Maybe twenty, tops.

(What’s that? She’ll be grown up and moved out and still in therapy by the time that happens…? Yeah. Um. Look over there! Something shiny!)

ANYWAY. It seems I am still coming to terms with some of the ways in which our paths have diverged.

I had a teacher when I was in the fourth grade named Mrs. Corbett. We used to called her Mrs. Orbit behind her back because she was… ummm… a little spacey. One of the ENTHUSIASTIC things that Mrs. Corbett would do was giving her favorite students grades like A++++++++.

Seriously. Not an A+. An A++++++++. So for a neurotic child such as myself, it became a matter of comparing the number of pluses across assignments and trying to determine whether I should feel badly about ONLY five pluses on this one, because the last one got TEN!

We did a lot of creative writing with Mrs. Corbett, and at the tender age of nine I wrote a multiple-page tale about a girl who lived in an incredibly dysfunctional family but managed to “get out” because she ran away and auditioned for Annie on Broadway and got the lead, and lived happily ever after on the stage.

Mrs. Corbett plastered the cover with a string of pluses following my A, and a note about how I had “quite an imagination” and “should definitely consider becoming a writer one day.”

I scoffed, because I wasn’t going to become a writer. I was going to be an ACTRESS. OBVIOUSLY. (Some day we’ll get into the more disturbing issue of that story having contained an elaborate description of the heroine first trying to kill herself, later waking up in a hospital, and then all of her problems being solved by Broadway—which, apparently, Mrs. Corbett didn’t find strange or alarming at all, because all 9-year-olds write about suicide all the time. Oh, wait, NO THEY DON’T. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic.)

I was in every school play. I was in every talent show. I was on the debate team. I started doing community theater at 14 and was a theater major in college. Umpteen gazillion hours of therapy later I no longer have the LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME DAMMIT LOOK AT ME RIGHT NOW addiction and so I’m much more comfortable, it turns out, living a lower-profile existence. But as a kid, there was NOTHING I wouldn’t do to have people watching me. And I reveled in it.

Chickadee puts on elaborate plays for us here at home, and she rocks out with her karaoke machine, and she has been known to adopt a kooky persona and entertain us all with loud and wacky demonstrations for hours on end. Within the family, within her own house, she reminds me of myself at that age—she’s a total spotlight monger, and she’s good at it.

OUTSIDE the house, though, it’s a different story. Chickadee suffers from stage fright, and I have no idea how to help her with it. It would be fine with me if she just preferred not to get up in front of others, but the WEIRD thing is that she really WANTS to do it. And she keeps doing it. And she keeps freezing. And she keeps getting upset about it, afterwards, and then she does it again. And again. And again.

All of which is to say, Chickadee INSISTED we leave the house early for Vacation Bible School, today, so that she could be one of the “worship leaders” during opening songs. I asked her several times if she was SURE she wanted to do that, and she assured me that she did. She bopped around the house yesterday singing the songs and dancing the various accompanying movements, and we set out early today so that she could go up front and help lead.

And you already know what happened, right?

The music started and the little kids up there with her started bouncing around and singing, and Chickadee did about two different movements while staring at the floor, and never sang at all, and then settled for standing there and twirling her hair while everyone else sang and danced. When the music stopped she ran back to her seat and slouched down with a decidedly grim look on her face.

I—having stayed specifically to watch this—walked over and kissed the top of her head and told her I’d see her later, being careful to keep my tone light. She half-lifted her arm in a wave, and I left.

I understand wanting to do this stuff. I always wanted to do it. I even understand NOT wanting to do it, feeling like it’s too much. I do NOT understand insisting that she wants to and then freezing, every single time, and GOING BACK FOR MORE. It baffles me. I used to feel really badly for her, but if I’m being completely honest I have to say that at this point I’m starting to find it annoying. She’s not five, she’s ten. She begs to do these things, begs for us come and stay and watch, and then tanks. I just don’t get it.

On the other hand, if my spotlight-hungriness was born of family dysfunction (and I think it probably was), a small part of my brain is a-okay with her being utterly unlike me in this way. Still. Pick something, kid. Do it or don’t. Stop torturing yourself (and us)!


  1. Ani

    Having is not as pleasing a thing as wanting, it is not logical but it is often true.

    Wisdom from Mr. Spock.

  2. Megan

    Poor kid torn two ways at once! I was horribly shy and did the attention/drama thing as a way to compensate (is isn’t ME talking to you! It’s my alternate personality which I have adopted for the moment! Dontcha like me??) while my mini-me is horribly shy and can’t stand the thought of public performance. Hmmmm…. another story without a point. I need to work on this…

  3. Mandee

    I was a judge at a middle school talent show back in the spring and I wondered the same thing about some of those contestants. This gives me–a total, unabashed, unsympathetic show-boat–a lot more perspective.

  4. Ramblin' Red

    Sounds like MY mini-me – LMNOB. She’s only 7, but hoo boy can I recognize the “symptoms.”

    Your Mrs. Orbit story makes me want to cry. Especially your story…I mean SUICIDE and she just says, “Great imagination – go forth and write?” Then again, when I was in 6th grade I wrote about finding out that my stepfather was not my father at age 5 – and all the teacher zeroed in on was, “Great imagery!” because I’d captured the smells and sounds of the moment. Dolts, I tell you.

  5. All Adither

    Did Mrs. Orbit grow up to be a spammer? @LOOK! COME SEE THIS A+++++ OFFER!@

  6. Yvanka

    Oh, poor thing. I was of the LOOK AT ME persuasion as well – still sort of am, to tell you the truth.

    I participated in everything – EVERYTHING! – as a kid, and not always because I really liked it. I first started being presentational because my little sister was singing solos at church and I was jealous, a veritable little green-eyed monster. And then I kept it up because I thought it was expected of me. Much the same reason I pursued the choirs and dramatics and church solo-singing… because I was then TOLD I was good at it. That qualification became an expectation, became how I saw myself, without ever bothering to stop and think, “Why exactly am I doing this again?”

    And then I took it one step further and majored in music. Now I’m beyond the undergraduate years, and I do miss some of the aspects of what I did before, but I’m not using my degree as it’s meant to be used, and am instead pursuing something entirely different – more administrative, more in line with my REAL passions and abilities.

    And I am certainly not saying that this is the case with your young Chickadee, and GOD why did I just tell you a massive story in comments the very first time I’ve delurked? Wow. Ridic. My apologies.

    Your Chickadee will either break through her wall, or she’ll choose something else! …There, that’s more along the lines of the positive one-liner I should have started with.


  7. Em

    I remember being little and wanting attention in that way. I remember either getting up and having it not go the way I imagined – either I wasn’t the star I imagined with people swooning and an undercover Hollywood agent coming forward to offer me a contract. Or else I was overwhelmed when everyone WAS looking at me. I have no advice. I’m pretty much wallpaper now which is not something I think Chickadee should ever be.

    And while I agree that a 9 year old writing about suicide should raise some red flags, I had the opposite thing happen. I had a 5th grade teacher who had taken a handwriting analysis lecture and decides that I was suicidal based upon the swoops and curves of my letters. I spent the remainder of THAT year trying to make my handwriting look more, I don’t know, gleeful?

  8. Lindy

    I used to be just like that. When I was in first grade, I incredibly shy and cried because I had to stand up in front of the class and introduce myself to the new boy in class.

    By seventh grade I had a leading role in the school play and a few years later I had to give a speech in front my graduating class and God and everybody, and I kicked it’s ass and got the first standing ovation at graduation in years.

    I think it just takes time. If thats sort of thing is what she really wants to do, once she’s comfortable with herself, it’ll come, and she’ll be great at it.

  9. Holly

    The only way to be comfortable with something is to keep doing it, she’ll find her niche and she’ll be great. Just be patient.

  10. Shalee

    I say you don’t have to understand it. (If I were waiting for my mom to get me, I’d be waiting my entire life.) Just let Chickadee be herself, even the I-just-want-to-try-even-if-it’s-annoying-everyone-else self. One day you’re gonna expect the blank stare/tanking and suddenly realize that her star is born. Then you’ll look at her in awe and thing, “There she is… Hello you.” (Really, all I wanted was for my mom to support me. And that you’re doing marvelously, Mir, even if it makes you cringe.)

    (Oh and I’ve already apologized to my mom for making her go to all those plays, concerts, performances, shows. I get it now that I have an 11-yr old who is, in some ways, very much like Chickadee. I get what I put her through when she could have been doing something, anything, else.)

  11. jennielynn

    Let her keep doing it. The day came when the veil lifted and I not only said the lines, I got laughs! Nirvana. Sheer, beautiful Nirvana.

  12. Amanda

    I cannot fathom having the courage to fail to do something over and over again, in front of lots of people, including my parents! Good for Chickie – she sounds very brave. One day she’ll do it.

  13. Leandra

    I think Ani might be on to something, but other than that, I got nothing. Maybe it’s some kind of test, to see if you’ll keep coming, even though you and she both know she’s going to tank?

  14. Cheryl

    I think it’s like falling off a bike. You have to get back on. And if you really want to do things publicly, you have to try again. And I bet that at some level, Chickadee knows that. Good for her for continuing to challenge herself – I bet that eventually she will be able to do things in public!

  15. susan

    my 3 year old suffers from stage fright too. except she’s at the point where she just refuses to participate in any sort of performance (which happens every 3 months or so at her preschool) and just curls up on my lap and looks worrisome until it’s over. but she LOVES to sing and dance at home! it drives me crazy! also, because her teachers tell me that she’s such a ham during rehearsals and loves to take center stage. it’s just when all those people come filing in to watch that she just freezes. I have nothing helpful to say. I’m just glad I’m not the only one with a kid like this! :)

  16. Sheila

    Mrs. Orbit reminds me of the teacher in Ralphie’s fantasy in “A Christmas Story”– she is so overcome with joy and pride at his essay that she cannot contain herself, writing A+++++++++++ across all the blackboards and even the walls as Ralphie positively gleams with pride and his classmates hoist him up onto their shoulders in a moment of pure magnificence.

    Maybe all Chickadee wants is to be carried around on your shoulders? Which you do each time you write about her here, warts and all (pun intended, sorry). She’ll burst forth someday soon. And look out, world, when she does!

  17. arduous

    Chickadee sounds very brave to me. It must suck so hard, to desperately feel like, this is who I am, I am a performer, I am a leader, and then to freeze up in front of people and not be able to really show who you feel you are inside.

    I bet one day, she’ll be able to do it. She’ll get up there, and realize, “Hey I can do this.” And as Sheila says, look out world when she does.

  18. Flea

    My daughter does the same thing. She’s 15 now and I’ve only recently discovered a partial solution. I don’t stay and watch. I leave. In fact, I let some of my adult girlfriends play mentor and mom. They come to watch and praise.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are times I stay, and times I want to be there, but most of the time I back away until her confidence has been built, then go to watch. Weird, I know, but it seems to work. She wants me there, but she NEEDS me to not be there temporarily.

  19. Carolyn

    Just let her do it. She obviously doesn’t shrink from a challenge – what a great quality. You’re there to support her when she feels terrible about a performance, so she’s safe to try things.

    :) You’re a good mama.

  20. jwg

    You haven’t taught her the nudity trick? Tell her to think of all those people out there as naked. They are far less scary that way.

  21. Jenny

    I was that kid. That’s not to say, “Oh, don’t worry, she’ll be fine!” because I’ve been there and lived that and it’s NOT fine (especially when you know your parents are frustrated, too, and you ALSO know they don’t want you to know they’re frustrated). But, for whatever it’s worth, I was that kid, and I eventually figured it out.

  22. susie

    And many years from now, she will remember that no matter how many times she tried to do it but couldn’t, her family supported her and didn’t try to talk her out of it. Clearly, it is important to her to keep trying and she obviously feels safe to do so – isn’t persistence a great quality? It may be worth trying what Flea suggests – leaving and not watching. It may be more painful for you than it is for her.

  23. Yvanka

    jwg – Naked people can be SUPER scary. Especially when you’re in church. Yipe.

  24. airportsox

    Just my humble opinion – I often feel sooo gung-ho about something and the minute I try to do it I freeze… after YEARS of therapy, I’m finally figuring out that I have a problem with wanting to be perfect. I get up there (or get into a project or whatever) and I begin to think that I can’t do it right, can’t do it well enough and I freeze, back out or give up. I would encourage you to let her keep trying and encourage you to let her know that you support her and that she is ok – no matter what happens. Even if she freezes every time, it’s ok and you LOVE HER VERY MUCH.

    I’m still working on my “issue” in this regard, but I’m learning to keep trying and I’m getting to the point where finishing is coming easier… I hope that “finishing” will start coming for her too. :-)

  25. Mike Golch

    I have to agree with ANI,Mr.Spock said it best!that’s my story and I’m gonna stick to it! Bug Time Hugs and God’s blessings to your house from my house!

  26. Cele

    I always have nightmares about being in situations like that, I know what to do, I can do it, but I open my mouth and nada.

    I’m sure plenty of people have given you ideas, suggestions, and we’ll here’s another thought. She wants so badly to do this, maybe she should try mental imaging like athletes do before an event. Just a thought, but I feel for poor Chickie and mommy.

  27. Brigitte

    Even though it makes you mental, I’m glad you didn’t blow up at her about it. It seems to be something she has enough internal baggage about! And I think maybe airportsox is onto something with the perfectionism thing.

  28. DR

    Mir, your story reminds me of a junior high quiz paper with (what I considered very “dark” comments) scribbled on the paper. (It did actually look like scrap paper was used for the quiz.) When I was grading the paper during my planning time, I read the words and promptly went to his class and pulled him out into the hall. When I voiced my concern over the words, he grinned sheepishly and told me it was just a song lyric. Since he was a generally a very introverted child, I remember saying something as mundance as “Do you promise me?” before I gathered my wits enough to ask for the song’s title and band. Turns out it was just as he said but whew…written out some of today’s song lyrics are frightening! (Just in case others are wondering…if I had sent him to the counselor, he would have just sat there staring at her. He was very selective in the people he would talk to…a special ed student mainstreamed into my class.)

  29. DR

    Sorry…I got so far down memory lane that I forgot what I meant to ask. Have you told her the “imagine everyone’s sitting there in their underwear” technique? My guess is that she will grow out of this in the next year or so.

  30. Jane

    aww chickie… such a battle in your heart. trust your self and keep after that “thing” until you wrestle it down and stomp it! I think your momma Mir is gonna be standing in the wings cheering you on!

  31. Michelle

    I don’t know… I still think it’s good that she’s trying. Maybe she really is just putting an intense effort in trying to get over her stage fright.

  32. sunny

    My daughter just turned 9 and does the same thing. She is a drama queen and loves to sing and dance(at home) and play the piano.She does excellent when she plays piano in recitals, but when she has to face the audience, she kind of clams up.

  33. StephLove

    Considering how many of us have our own blogs here I think a lot of us have that Look-At-Me-Urge in print, even if we’re private or shy in person. I know that’s how I am.

    Maybe Chickadee needs a blog. I’d read it if she did.

  34. J from Ireland

    I think she sounds very brave. Would it be that she is determind to do it but just losing the nerve every time so far, hoping that some day it will be different? It must be very upsetting for you to have to witness this so many times though.

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