What are you doing to your kids!?
When we decided to go and live in Malta, my biggest fear was, that I am doing something bad to my kids. Of course, it wasn’t my idea that traveling and changing environment is wrong. But when you are young, and your confidence is shaky, it’s not hard to be influenced by other people.
After one year of experiences, I can say my spine is a bit more upright. I was able to observe my children every day, how they are handling new acquaintances, different places, and significant challenges. I have to say; I was proud as hell. They were outgoing, strong and willing to face any dare in front of them.
Erik was two, and if someone asked him in English, what is his name, he shot it out with determination: ERIK! It was loud and undoubting. It always brought smiles to strangers faces. He learned to understand English with such ease. Ground ups tend to forget how to receive knowledge with such lightness.
Lejla on the other hand… She was ruling it even more! She was three, and she wanted to join the school. In Malta, they have the British system and school starts at the age of three. She couldn’t wait to join her new classmates. At that time she didn’t understand English at all. I was rehearsing with her, how to say: “I am thirsty,” and: “I need to pee.” I found this two sentences essential for her survival in school. She did survive. She made new friends and by the end of a school year headmaster pointed out that having Lejla in their class, increased the level of English in Maltese kids. They were trying to converse with this pretty foreign girl, and they learned how to do it. She was joining birthday parties and making friends on playfields or beaches.
One thing we found out on Gozo was that Lejla is super brave. She does possess basic survival instinct, but she is already forcing herself to overcome her fears and do what she desires even though is terrifying. She is a bit, well not a bit; she is a big adrenalin junky. She was driven towards rocks lifting from the sea, assumedly made for her jumping performances. When we came there, she was still wearing inflatable rings. Soon she put one down and all of the sudden she was swimming on her own. She was observing grown ups jumping into the sea. Then she spotted some big kids doing it. And of course: she must try it! She was standing on water level shelve, afraid to jump. She had an hour of preparation before she first did it. But when she did jump, she was so satisfied she couldn’t stop repeating it. Then she needed a bigger challenge. Or higher. She went on rock shelf about a meter high. Again: she was trying to push herself forward, but she couldn’t awake courage to help her. So daddy did. He grabbed her and jumped with her even though she was protesting. When their heads came out of the water, she was hugging him and said: “Thank you, daddy!” Sometimes they just need a little push.
After a year, tourists were taking videos of her jumping from tree meters high jump, doing it with a trained show. Tourists were always new, and she could repeat her performance over and over again, accepting mass applause afterward. She owned the crowd, and her parents became another of her admirers. She was four. Imagine what she can achieve if we’ll help her to keep that spark alive and not allow fear to overwhelm her.
For me as a mother it is hard. Looking her making crazy conquests. She is five now, and she can climb like I never could. I just turn around, and she is somewhere five meters high. My heart shrinks, but I have to overcome myself, put a smile on my face and congratulate her on her new success. Then watch her come down safely. If she is doing all that already, I cannot imagine what I’ll have to look at when she is bigger: Cliff jumps, rope walking between skyscrapers without a safety net, swimming with white sharks. I am terrified, but at the same time, I sincerely hope she will do it. Whatever she will imagine for herself possible, she should try. Because she can do it.
Am I a horrible mother because of it? Maybe I am not a conventional one. Maybe I don’t want to be. What I want is that my children know I love them. I want them to become independent human beings, who know how to take responsibility for their actions. If they decide to achieve something, we discuss it. I tell them I believe they can do it, but sometimes it takes practice to make it. Then they try it. If they fall, they start to cry. I try not to run toward them and rock them in my arms. They decided to do it, and they knew it’s not easy. Now is the hard time. I am shouting from a distance encouraging words. They have to get back up on their feet and not allow failure to crush them. They have to try it again. Repetition. If they can overcome self-pity, they manage to repeat their attempt. Again. And again. Finally, they make it. Right then: pure happiness, satisfaction, power flushes over their face. They did it! They did it on their own! That is building their confidence. It is worth it.
That is why I believe it’s right to take them into the world with us. We know kids are capable of managing it. I know we will take something away from them. Routine, stability, grandparents: that won’t be a typical scenario. But I believe, being on the road with us, can give them much more. We will teach each other to grow. We’ll be there for each other. We’ll encourage the one who will fall in a setback. We’ll create collective energy that will inspire us to be powerful individuals.