“Like mother like daughter,” “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” and “just a chip off the block,” are all sayings we’ve grown up hearing and are probably something we’ve all heard at some point and had to muster up a not-so genuine laugh. At their core, these sayings are all saying the same thing: “You are just like your parents.” This is a thought that many of us cringe at for many different reasons. It can feel like being squeezed into a sweater too small to being born into shoes just too big to fill.
Trying to match our parent’s expectations and make them proud is a goal that has spanned across time and culture. From Kanye West’s “Hey Mama” to Arthur Miller’s classic play “Death of a Salesman,” the goal of pleasing our parents is almost innate within us. In my personal experience, my parents have served as the best role models a person could ask for; they’ve set their standards high and have worked hard to equip me with the tools I need to go above and beyond. I see this as both loving and fair. They want the best for me. They help me. So then there comes a point, when I feel like I’m expected to deliver. I think a majority of us feel like this in regard to our parents. We don’t want to let down the people who love us the most. To a large degree, we’ve been conditioned to measure our success by how wide we can make our parents grin when we tell them our accomplishments. But what happens when your actions move against the grain of your parent’s expectations?
Many compartmentalize differing opinions, dreams, or identity simply to avoid running interference with mom or dad’s idea of what their child should be.
Some parents, however, have been brave and have allowed their expectations to grow and change alongside their children. Although we might have never guessed it, we could all take a lesson from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. When their 8-year-old said they would like to be called “John," Brangelina didn’t miss a beat. We now see John proudly donning a short haircut and tux. We know about it, and the parents opened the conversation with the public and their 8-year-old. They aren’t keeping the “situation” quiet, instead they are seizing the opportunity to create difference, while celebrating their child’s identity. It sends the message loud and clear to their children that they do not need to be afraid of living up to any arbitrary standard. Where others would see an opportunity to condemn, Brad and Angelina opened up the opportunity for possibility.