I wouldn’t classify Leila is outgoing, but she’s definitely talkative. She’s engaging, sensitive, funny, smart, caring, giving… need I go on? But she’s also terrified of failure, of new things. Once she panics, it’s all over, and she’s left trembling and crying at the thought of what might be. Most people don’t see that side of her though, they see the five year old who is wiser than her years, more articulate than most and much smarter than average.
Leila doesn’t like being stared at. She doesn’t like having her picture taken because, as she told me, it makes her feel funny inside when she thinks of the person behind the camera just looking at her. She also hates speaking in front of people. Which shouldn’t be a big deal for a five year old because, seriously, how much public speaking is there in grade primary?
She is part of one of the local Sparks troops (and I am a leader). We head out every Monday night, her in her pink shirt, I in my (dorky) blue one to a church hall full of screaming girls and crafts and badges. The first week after Christmas, we had a show and tell week and Leila brought her favourite blanket. By the time it was her turn to stand in front of everyone, she had already gotten nervous and ended up red-faced with tears in her eyes while I jumped to her rescue to tell them about her blanket.
Since Christmas, her class has been working on practicing more of their spoken French (she’s in immersion). Tomorrow is Leila’s turn. The teacher sent home a note emphasizing that while the children should come up with an idea of something to talk about, it’s not a big presentation and don’t put pressure on them (or let them put it on themselves) to memorize anything. Last night ended with Leila in tears because it’s almost her turn and everyone was going to look at her. She knows that she’d like to talk about playing with two of her friends, and after we got it out of her what they like to play together (Monster Tag and laying on the grass looking at the sky), we wrote it down and she said it to herself a few times.
I wrote her teacher a note as a heads up that Leila is very nervous and will probably get upset when it’s her turn. I don’t think that was too interfering, I wanted her to know so she could be prepared, but also for Leila.
Steve’s better at talking her through these things because I end up getting upset myself and then I’m holding her while she cries biting back tears ready to keep her home forever. Steve has a beautiful gift of being able to speak to people in the way they need to be spoken to and she hears what he’s saying. Unfortunately, he’s away tonight at a conference and the anxiety will be back around bedtime, mark my words.
Also, since I’m on a fret-streak here, there’s this kids race we do with the girls every June. Totally fun and a great atmosphere, except, guess who puts too much pressure on herself to win? And guess who isn’t the fastest runner? Every kid gets a medal and every kid is cheered for but last year, Leila stopped mid-race and cried because she had gotten passed by an older girl. It’s not that she’s a sore loser (well, no more-so than your regular five year old), it’s just that she really really wants to be the best.
The kids race is on the Saturday and the race event (5k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon) are on the Sunday. Steve wants to “run” the 5k with her this year. It takes place a week after her sixth birthday.
First of all, she is totally psyched and doesn’t even want to run in the kids race. Secondly, once the weather warms, he plans on taking her out a few nights a week and run/walk starting with 1k. Steve is rabidly aggressive and competitive, but he knows how to turn it off and this isn’t about Leila being the youngest kid at the race, this is about Leila learning that life isn’t about who crosses the finish line first.
I’m worried she’s too young and that it’s too far. Or not, maybe I’m just worried. About… nothing that I can actually articulate. I’m worried about Leila. Because she seems so small to have her foot in the real world already, mostly. Because it’s been such a big year for her and I know that sometimes she’s overwhelmed by it all. Because I miss her, oh man, I really, really miss spending all that time with her. I miss her physical presence, but also, I kind of miss her as a three year old and a four year old.
I wish so much that I could make her path easy. Oh, I know that isn’t right or possible or even fair to her, because there is so very much she has to learn on her own, but I do really wish I could take it all up, lift it off of her – the nerves, the fear, the hurt. I think how couldn’t you like people looking at you? you’re so beautiful and amazing and I worry that she’ll struggle with low self-esteem. I want to gush and tell her how wonderful she is, but I wonder if she’ll look back and think that I was putting un-due pressure on her for perfection.
Part of all of this comes from my own struggle, I realize that. I’m so scared that despite everything we can do and show her, that one day she won’t love herself. I’m scared that she’ll wake up and feel unappreciated and unloved, that she’ll get lost on her own road where I can’t go. I’m scared that I’m not enough for her, that somehow my own flaws will hold her back. I’m worried that she’ll feel that her sister is loved more, because her sister is loud and funny and gets away with more because she inherently just knows how to push and push and push.
My real wish for Leila, is that she will keep the love that is in her heart – and she feels love so deeply and openly – for her entire life. That she will share that love with everyone, yet not let those who are unworthy of it hurt her. That she will learn how to turn that love inward and focus it on herself so that she can take the gift that is her beautiful spirit and shine it out onto the world.