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Wednesday 15 August 2018

It's Fighting talk from the worrier

Mike dressed himself up in saucepan lids, bicycle helmet and sword. "What are you supposed to be?" I asked him.

He held the sword aloft saying: "I'm a worrier."

He meant warrior but, the truth is, he was right the first time. He's comes from a long line of worriers. Generations of men and women who have paced the floor, chewed their fingernails to the quick and said endless decades of the Rosary.

When you have kids, you enter a whole new world of worry. You have to fight the urge to refuse to let them out of the house unless they're covered in bubble wrap.

Last Saturday, for the first time, Mike, who's five, made it to the top of the big climbing frame in the playground. I was delighted, but it only lasted seconds.

"You come up, dad," he said. So I climbed up and, with the wind whistling around me I realised, effin hell, we're fairly bloody high up here.

Mike, meanwhile, wants to keep going. He's trying to manoeuvre himself up the central pole so he can sit on the very top. I don't want to tell him to stop, but at the same time, I'd rather he didn't slide off the thing and go plummeting to the earth.

This I suppose is the central contradiction of parenting. You want them to test themselves and try new things and you wish to God they wouldn't test themselves and try new things.

History

On Tuesday, he had his first swimming lesson and the roles were reversed. We have a difficult history with swimming. We brought him to his first lesson two years ago. It did not go well as Mike ended up with his head under the water for most of the lesson. For the past year, we've been trying to undo this unpleasantness. We've been going to the same pool every week, sometimes twice a week, with the aim of getting him comfortable again before starting lessons.

But when he was finally faced with it on Tuesday, he broke down and bawled all the way there: "I don't want to go, Daddy, I don't want to go."

I tried to explain to him about how natural it was to feel nervous before doing something new, and how once he started into it, he'd be fine.

His sister, who's seven, and has more emotional maturity than I do, gave him one of her bracing pep-talks about how she felt just the same when she started, but then everything turned out fine.

But Mike kept bawling right until the moment he got into the water.

This, of course, tests your mettle, too. It's easy to convince yourself that you shouldn't be putting your kid through something that makes them feel so bad. You imagine him in 15 years time telling some shrink about the time his father forced him into the swimming pool . . .

But the second he got in he was fine. And, of course, I couldn't get him out of it when it was time to go.

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