"Our children, they are the very worst of us and the best of us"
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. But this is killing me. It's killing me because the real Henry is hiding. The real Henry would love to dress up and dance and sing. The real Henry steals the leading role at home, but chooses to work back stage at school.
The real Henry is choosing to save it all for his dreams, a world where he is himself and it's so much fun.