Our boys are so different from each other. They're similar in some ways, too — they look a lot alike, they both wake up at the asscrack of dawn, they're both pretty happy kids. But in many ways they are just very different people. One such difference is how they approach taking risks.
Owen — four years old — is cautious, thoughtful, and sometimes downright fearful. (He's also smart, verbal, goofy, stubborn, sweet, and hysterical; but that's not what this post is about). When he was a baby, we learned not to worry he'd put something unauthorized into his mouth. The kid would never put anything he didn't know was food (and food he LIKED) in his mouth. This hasn't changed (much to our consternation at the dinner table). With physical stuff, too, he talked early, but didn't walk until he was pretty sure he'd be good at it. He wasn't a big climber, jumper, run-headlong-into-wall-er. While I sometimes worry he'll hold back too much and miss out on things, I also take comfort knowing he isn't likely to do a swan dive off the jungle gym. I see a lot of myself in him here.
Nicholas — almost 16 months — is crazy. The dude has no fear and does not hesitate to do pretty much anything that strikes him. Partly this comes from being the younger brother. He sees Owen do things and he wants to do them, too. Never mind Owen's three years older and generally able to do a lot more stuff without risking death. But even when Owen's not around, Nicholas does things Owen never would have. Whether climbing onto tables taller than his head, running headlong down our steep driveway, or sticking anything he can get his hands on into his mouth (apparently chalk is now a snack food?) the kid just knows no fear. And pretty much always has at least one good facial bruise to show for it.
In this photo I imagine Nicholas struggling to free himself so he can stick that chalk back in his mouth and leap to the concrete below while Owen tries to take the chalk away and hold him back from certain doom. Is this who they will always be?
Watching Owen over the years, he's changed. Grown is probably a better word. He's overcome some fears, while others have surfaced. I used to think he was going to be a kid who wasn't afraid of the dark, but as he got older and his imagination started to bloom, so did his capacity for fear of the abstract unknown. At his core he's still the same kid — cautious, thoughtful, a little scared about things he's unsure of, especially physical danger.
Owen's gymnastics coach — the always amazing Coach Scott — tells him fear is your body's way of telling you to be careful. When you do something even though you're scared, that's bravery. Being brave doesn't mean not being afraid. If you're facing something truly dangerous and you're not scared, you're not brave, you're stupid. The key is to listen to that fear, allow it to heighten your awareness and proceed with care, but don't let it stop you.
So I guess in a way I hope Owen will continue to conquer his fears, if thoughtfully, while Nicholas learns to be at least a LITTLE BIT scared of things that are potentially life-threatening.
I find myself taking some new risks lately. I've decided not to look for a "steady" job like the one I left (note my inaccurate but self-affirming choice of verb here) and instead go to work for a startup I think has great potential but which at the moment has no money to pay me. I hope I'm striking a healthy balance — being thoughtful and conscious of the risks I'm taking, without being too afraid to take a well-considered leap now and then. I hope I can learn from BOTH my kids and show them how to blend the best of each of their strengths.
No matter what, they'll still be way cuter. I'm learning to live with that.