I’ve been watching my gorgeous little Button-Pusher lately: at soft play centres, in the park, at various classes we go to. And it suddenly struck me that she likes to follow other kids around. And I mean really follow them around like she’s a little shadow. It’s quite something to observe: she suddenly stops and watches, mesmerised by another child at play, often an older child (she’s fascinated by bigger children just now), and then as they move away, she gambles off after them. She’ll follow them up a ladder, down a slide, if they laugh at something, she’ll laugh at it too. And she’ll often, repeatedly say hello to them while getting really close to them, as if deliberately attempting to invade their personal space to make them really see her.
I’ve watched her doing this for weeks, and often found myself smiling as she grins cheekily at someone and chases after them. But one day last week, I found myself frowning. And it struck me that I was bothered by the thought that she looked like a follower, and not a leader.
I shocked myself immediately when I realised what I was thinking. Clearly being a follower was not something I put value on for my little girl. My frown must have been the result of a negative association with not being a leader. After all, don’t most of us put ‘good leadership skills’ on our CVs? I know I always have. I’ve also of course, again like many people, used the phrase ‘good team player’ or ‘works well within a team environment’ on my CV, knowing that so many employers need, and expect people to work well as part of a bigger team. Most of us live and work in that kind of environment: we’re not all islands, going it alone. So why was I sitting here, in a brightly lit, overly air conditioned soft play centre, frowning at the thought that my daughter might not have the qualities required to lead the pack?
I wondered if it’s because we only ever want the best for our children? We tell ourselves that they can be anything they want to be, but I think secretly we often believe, and hope, that they are so amazing, they’ll grow up to be wonderfully talented individuals. Who has heard their toddler declare ‘You do it Mummy! Do it this way not that way Mummy!’ and secretly thought, ‘Well how’s that for assertive? She’ll be running a FTSE 100 company before we know it and shipping everyone into shape with that level of confident decision making!’
But what if that’s not what my little Button-Pusher wants? What if being amazingly talented and assertive, and leading FTSE 100 companies isn’t in her future? Maybe those things aren’t things that will bring her happiness? I suddenly remembered that when I was younger, my parents would often say, ‘All we really want, is for you to be happy’, and it struck me, that now I have a beautiful, funny, caring little girl of my own, all I want for her, is to be happy too. And being the leader, might not bring contentment. Maybe she’ll work best within a team? Maybe she’s really observant and will carefully watch how people behave, before joining in and making the team (or in the context of the soft play centre, the game) better? Maybe, who she is at 2, has little (or even no) bearing on who she’ll be at 22 or 42? Maybe I’m massively over analysing this! *
Whatever it all means, it did make me stop and think about just how fabulously happy she is, when she follows bigger kids around and tries to join in and make friends with them. In all likelihood, she’s probably just learning from them, hoping to be able to master whatever it is they can do that she yet can’t. And really, she’s just being herself and having fun, without an adult social filter that wouldn’t allow her to think, hey you look like you’re enjoying yourself, I think I’ll come and play with you for a bit. Adults tend to only introduce themselves to totally random people when a lot of alcohol is involved! Kids make friends in the blink of an eye. My gorgeous little Button-Pusher is just having fun, and doing her own thing. She’s happy. And really, that’s all I’d ever want for her.
* the likelihood of over analysis taking place on any given day, is high to pretty much definite! I think little B-P has pushed the ‘Mummy will over think it’ button into hyperdrive!