The third wheel.
Stuck in the middle.
Our courageous, sensitive, funny, empathetic, insecure third child.
Poor Jack endures both metaphors. Not only is he the third child, he is also a middle child.
As a toddler & still the youngest of three, Jack was always keeping me on my toes as he tried to, no scratch that, as he kept up with Ben. Anything you can do, I can do better. Hanging upside down on the curved monkey bars, sure but I can do it on the highest bar. Climb up a tree, sure but I will climb higher & to the flimsiest limb. Go out chest height at the beach with a body board, no problem. The fact that Jack stood a good fifteen centimeters shorter than Ben was no deterrent either. We always thought that Jack would be the first of our minions to break a bone, based on his fearless & can do personality.
He has the nickname of 'incredible Jack-Jack', based on the character in the movie 'The Incredibles'. A seemingly quiet little baby who is full of mischief & love for his family (see the Jack-Jack links)
But somewhere along the way all this bravado & confidence began to cover up a tangle of self-doubt & insecurity. Around the age of four & a half, & perhaps when his bladder problems (Jack has a low capacity & over active bladder) became more apparent, we noticed the anxiety masked behind the over confidence, the loudness & attention grabbing antics. The seeking of approval that was more than just wanting attention or praise, but searching for validation of self worth & reassurance that he was awesome just as he is.
Every time I glimpsed that sad, haunting look in his eyes, only for a second but still there none the less, made me feel like I had failed him. It isn't every day that his doubts about himself shine through, often he is a happy little boy, but they are there often enough. He still has a lack of self esteem & self worth that we are trying to help him with. To show him with more than words how much we love him. Especially the times when he is feeling his worst & says "Everyone in this family hates me."
God it hurts to write that. To know that our son feels this way.
I look back & wonder what could I have done differently that would take away the looks of hesitancy & self doubt from his eyes. That would give him the reassurance that he is loved & cherished. Adored & admired by his siblings.
It is easy to get lost in the mix in a large family, to be glanced over or have your voice brushed aside & unheard. But I thought that we were doing a pretty alright job in giving each of our children our attention, both divided & undivided. We always acknowledge them when they are talking, give them little moments of affection - whether it be a cuddle on the couch together, or just a hand caressing the top of their head as they walk past. I make time each day for some one on one time & conversation, whether it be three minutes, thirty minutes or on the odd occasion three hours. I thought I had been attentive to their moods & responsive to the little signs of body language that show they're upset about something. I thought we were on the right path to raising happy & confident young people. But I've missed a step & coming up short for our incredible Jack-Jack.
Jack truly is an incredible little boy. He is funny, he is adventurous, he is so sweet & affectionate. He is caring & empathetic, he is gentle & patient, especially with Blake, Will & Clay. He is helpful, he is clever & creative. He is an individual who is full of life, full of energy his legs need to burn & his mind needs to run. In his moments of self doubt he forgets all this. He doesn't hear all seven of us in his corner, cheering him on. For that moment all he hears is that disheartening voice in his own head that makes him feel like the whole world is against him & that he isn't any good.
It's so distressing to hear words like pathetic & no good coming out of your child's mouth when they are expressing how they are feeling. It rings great big giant alarm bells on my Mothering radar. The current default Mothering when any negative talk is uttered is to immediately hug him tight & tell him that he absolutely is not any of those things. That he is awesome, he is great at soccer, that he is so much fun for Blake & Will to play with. That he is good at learning to read & can draw some amazing pictures. To remind him of everything good & wonderful, incredible & amazing about himself. To color in all those empty words with so much love they disappear.
He is only six years old, seven in a few more months time. We need to make sure his cup is full & over flowing with self assurance & self confidence before the big wide world of adulthood comes knocking on his door. I want him to know without a doubt that he is a great person - even when that pesky irritating voice in his head is talking mean. To know that he isn't bad or worthless or any other horrible feeling that's churning in his chest. I want his adolescent years to be filled with good memories & fun mischief with friends, not depression & dark thoughts, or following the wrong crowd because he doesn't have the self-worth or the confidence to step away. To not be a sheep but to feel an equal among his peers.
Ever feel like you're just floundering about in the dark, looking for that light switch that will suddenly illuminate everything? Yeah, I'm looking for that light switch. I want to make all the right words, all the right actions, all the right responses shine so bright, that I don't make any more missteps. That we can give a guaranteed magic fix for our incredible Jack-Jack.
Because he really is incredible, flaws & all.