The Very Worst And The Best Of Us

“Our children, they are the very worst of us and the best of us”

The Way

It’s so easy to see the best in our children. I’ve sat on the sidelines of various activities, marveling over their individual personalities. The pieces of our family jigsaw that have nothing to do with G or I. The bits that are simply, them. I’m not sure that either of us have the tenacity of our second little traveller, nor the deep thought of our third. Our first traveller is diplomatic and quick thinking in a crises, often offering solutions that G and I are yet to find. The fourth giggles in his sleep. I have woken to catch a grin just as it has erupted into laughter. He will squeal with delight while remaining blissfully asleep. I woke him once, curiosity got the better of me, I had to know what was so funny.

“It’s just so much fun” he said before closing his eyes, desperate to get back to where I’d removed him from.

And then there are the moments that make us wince. The character traits we recognize, the facial expression filled with hesitation, an awkward shuffle that we’ve performed ourselves. We know it because its ours. We’ve danced the same moves, delivered the same lines. It goes beyond inheriting the cowlick, the gap in teeth and the freckles. It’s deeper, down into our souls, our psyche.

The fourth little traveller is terrified of what people will think of him. It bothers me for the obvious reasons. It limits him from being himself. It constricts his creativity, and it pushes him to a place of observation rather than participation. He will happily arrive at any dress up day in plain clothes, because it’s safer than the possible ridicule of getting it wrong. He refused to wear pajamas on pajama day. In the week leading up to the event I gently suggested ways we could get past his fear, and even when his brother and sisters dressed for the event that morning – nothing could change his mind.

During recent book week celebrations he chose a character who dressed in jeans and a hoodie. “But you’ll just look like any little boy?” I realized as it was coming out of my mouth that that was exactly what he had in mind. G suggested he could carry a lightning rod for his Percy Jackson character, he said no. Later that evening I came home from my writing group to discover G putting together an elaborate design (it’s amazing what you can do with a carton of Carlsberg and some masking tape).

“I figured if I made a really cool one he’d take it”.

In the morning over breakfast the little travellers gushed over their father’s creation, but I could see that it wasn’t working. I knew that look. It was my look. The please don’t make me play at the piano recital, the please don’t ask me to sing. The please don’t make me dress up. The please don’t laugh.

Later as I walked them into school, I noticed the sword was nowhere to be seen.

“I left it in the car on purpose, please don’t go and get it” his eyes were pleading.

I kissed him goodbye, told myself not to make a big deal of it. Not to push it. Battles in school corridors are rarely won by parents.

I have four children. I know that things change in time and a strong character trait at six can be a distant memory by eight. That while my performer steals the leading role at home, he chooses to work back stage at school.

Choosing to save it all for his dreams, a world where he is himself and it’s so much fun.

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  • bigwords is…

    Henry is a gorgeous boy who will grow into a gorgeous young man. I think not making a fuss is a wonderful way to let him decide what works for him. He’ll be a-ok because he is super amazing x

    • 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Thanks darls. I think we’re all doing okay at not making a fuss, and we have our fingers and toes crossed that by ignoring it he’ll work it out on his own over time. As a parent it’s excruciating to feel like we’re doing nothing to help him. For me it’s very personal as I was similar as a kid, I know the feeling of really wanting do something but not being able to push past the “what if” and it’s excruciating.

  • Claire Hewitt

    I have one of them too. I wish I could change her to make her more confident but my yelling and carry on is yet to make any positive change…

    • 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Yep, I’ve learnt not to push it, G and I have become very good at ignoring the fact that he’s not doing something when everyone else is. It’s bloody hard isn’t it?!

  • Kelly Exeter

    I reckon he will just get there one day all by himself. And it will be something completely random and weird that will get him there.

    Speaking from experience 🙂

    • 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Thanks Kelly xx

  • Rach aka Stinkb0mb

    Sometimes it just takes some of us longer to let the world see the real us. Sometimes our stars need time to warm up before they shine their brightest but boy oh boy, one they’re warmed up, they shine SO bright.

    You best get your sunglasses ready because when Henry starts to shine, he’s going to bedazzle the bejesus out of you all I reckon!


    • 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Oh Rach, such beautiful words. Thank you!!!!

  • Sisters from Another Mister

    No wise words here … my children are worlds apart and i wish i could mix them up in a bowl some days.
    But these words, made me tear up …

    • 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      I love that expression, mix them up in a bowl. So true. xx

  • Foran’s take on Shanghai

    I am crying as I type because I’ve been there and I have a little one exactly the same!! Flying under the radar but with very big dreams!!!

    • 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      That’s it exactly, big dreams and big fears. xxx

  • darlenefoster

    Henry is just like my brother Tim. A gentle soul who is uncomfortable with being noticed. Mom had to remove the white buttons from a navy blue shirt and replace them with dark blue buttons because he was sure the kids would tease him about the white buttons.

    • 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Oh Darlene, thank you for that story – we’ve had a few white buttons moments. I had to carry the platter of treats into the classroom on Valentines Day just incase no-one else brought something along. He wouldn’t decorate his cards incase no-one else did. I know he’ll be fine, but it’s slaying me at the moment.

  • Linda Sand

    As a youngest, you can never hope to catch up to your siblings. The best you can hope for is not to embarrass them or yourself. Someday, Henry will figure out the area in which he outshines his siblings then all will be well. For me, that turned out to be writing–mostly as a result of all the reading I did while being an unobtrusive child. Patience, Kirsty.

    • 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Thank you Linda, thank you so much xxx

  • ~~Kallie~~

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • ~~Kallie~~

    One day I think he will be like the mouse that roars… someone who is quiet until it really matters 🙂

    • 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Thanks Kallie, I think you’re right. We just need to be patient. xx

  • Expat mum

    I bet he’ll feel better once he figures out what he’s really good at and what he really enjoys doing.
    I have one that couldn’t give a toss what anyone thinks of him – and boy, that’s hard work too! I can’t really say anything because I want them to be true to themselves – but sometimes….

  • ADoC

    Look back at the young you, who shuffled along hiding at one point. And look at you now. He’ll be comfortable with being brilliant in his own way- someday. Just as you are.

  • Lazy Daisy Jones

    So true so frustrating, so sad, but we can’t live our lives for them wish we could sometimes….
    daisy J
    Ps so glad to have discovered you!

  • sarsm

    On the other hand, he feels so comfortable and loved and safe within his family that he is able to live his dreams out at home.

  • Kadri Slings

    This comment has been removed by the author.