Can a child ever be too gentle?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself this week.
Ben is my middle child and youngest boy and has always been a gentle little thing. He has just turned six and just doesn’t seem interested in things his peers are. He’s not interested in sports at all, he doesn’t enjoy “rough and tumble” style play and would rather sit and colour than play with toys.
He’s easily my most affectionate child and wears his heart on his sleeve. He has a lot of friends who are girls because he would prefer to dance and sing than run around with the boys. He isn’t competitive and spent his school sports day smiling and waving at us despite coming last in most of his events.
I’m more than happy for him to defy gender stereotypes. This is not an issue for us at all. I’m definitely not one who believes boys should conform to their mischievous, trouble making reputation. I have one son like that, I’m not sure I could handle two!
What does worry me is others taking advantage of his good nature. My eldest son knows he can coax things out of him – the last ice lolly or a toy they’re supposed to be sharing. Just yesterday he persuaded Ben to give him the conkers he was so proud of collecting and Ben shrugged and said “OK you can have them”.
While I’m proud of his generosity, part of me wills him to say no. Just once.
He came home from school without a keyring we had bought from the Harry Potter tour that he had so proudly attached to his book bag. He had given it to another child at school. When I asked why, he responded with “because he asked me for it”.
It hadn’t even occurred to him to say no and it breaks my heart a little.
You only need to turn on the news for five minutes to realise the world can be a cruel place. It’s “a dog eat dog world” they tell us, and “nice guys finish last”.
I don’t want that for my Ben. I want the best for him and for him to be happy and successful and respected. Can he ever be these things if he is being walked all over?
His teacher told us at parents evening that he has absolutely no malice in him at all and that’s a rare thing. It stuck with me. Obviously my heart burst with pride. What a lovely little boy we have. But then there’s that nagging at the back of mind. Won’t he need that in life? That grit? That edge? That determination to fight for what you believe in?
Now I know he’s still young. He’s only six. But he hasn’t changed since he was a baby. He was a pleasant laid back little boy then too. My worry is how he will be treated as he becomes older if he continues to be so easily manipulated.
I worry about all these things but then I look over at him sat on couch having a cuddle with his toy rabbit and think “please never change”.
Don’t let this world dampen your spirit. Don’t become cynical.
Maybe he can lead the way. He can make his own path in life where cynicism and mistrust have no place. Perhaps our children’s generation can be the one where kindness is not seen as weakness. Where tolerance is something to be respected not ridiculed. Where gentleness and warmth promote a similar reaction in others.
In a world of hard nosed, callous, misogynistic, narcissists perhaps we need more Bens.