Our kids both had their first passports at 3 months old. I remember laying them on the duvet to take their “My First Passport” photos. By the time we had to renew them when they were 5 years old, it was getting a bit ridiculous. (“So you claim this baby is this child, eh?) Since those first tiny baby photos, we have travelled pretty much constantly. Trips to Portugal three or more times a year, living overseas for a while, a 6-week tour of Europe, a month in China. Our kids are desensitised to travelling and to sleeping in beds that are not their own. By travelling, they have got used to coping with change. They have no problem at all with sleepovers, or school camps, or with us sneaking off for a few days and leaving them with one or other of the grandmas. They can cope with being elsewhere than at home, and we’ve had a lot of fun along the way. It’s been a cool way to help them grow.
Our kids have a friend who struggles to cope with sleepovers and camp, at the moment. We have trailed up the lane in the dark to take this friend home because this child was just not yet ready to sleep away from mum. Interestingly, this friend is also the kindest, gentlest and most sensitive person I know; this is a child with amazing levels of empathy and emotional intelligence. This child has learned how to cope with people. Sometimes it’s useful to be tough and brave, because it opens up a world where you can be independent, and not lean on anyone else. But maybe being brave also comes with a cost? In our rush to get a gritty character into children, I wonder if something may get lost along the way. Children’s tears and fears are a normal, natural part of growing up, and giving voice to them is not abnormal. So I’ve been pondering how learning to cope is a different thing to instilling grit. And how maybe the opposite of grit is not weakness, but sensitivity.