When you have multiple children of the same gender, it’s tempting to compare their personalities. My three boys (ages 8, 11, and 14) have similar physical features, and a lot of common interests, but each has his own distinct disposition.
My youngest son, Eli, has always attracted attention. It could be his long lashes, pop star hair, or winning smile. But it’s his joie de vivre since birth that has drawn both kids and adults in. The kid can get as excited about finding cheddar goldfish in his lunchbox as he might about finding Mets tickets in there.
He has forever been schlepped around to his brothers’ games and activities, but never complains. Unintimidated by adults and much older kids, he feels a deep sense of ownership in his brothers’ teams and friendships. He can often be found –uninvited — in the dugouts and on the gym benches of Jacob and Aden’s various teams, and is famous for photobombing many a team picture.
Eli commandeers playdates and outings with the older boys– usually to the amusement of his brothers’ friends– while Jacob and Aden stand by in shock and frustration.
The kid has few boundaries and likes it that way.
Ever since he could talk, he has faithfully boasted about his myriad talents and inherent knowledge. If you asked him who was the smartest, the best athlete, or the most gifted artist, he’d always proudly point to himself without hesitation. He spoke openly and often about his prowess on everything from Lego-building to swimming to math.
His natural charisma and zest for life was adorable when he was a toddler, and its consistency through his pre-school years was endearing. But as he got into kindergarten and first grade, I started to become self-conscious about his hubris.
Wilson doesn’t over think things as much as I do, so he rightfully regarded Eli’s large version of himself with pride and delight. But for the last year or so, Eli’s arrogance both tickled and embarrassed me.
I tried to talk to him about toning it down and keeping his overconfidence within the family. His brothers often feel compelled to remind him of his place and criticize him. Amazingly, their barbs didn’t seem to bother Eli at all.
His healthy ego remained intact.
Eli’s air of sophistication and spunk stood out when he was younger, but as his peers matured, his superiority seemed misplaced. While he excels at living life to the fullest, his other child skills have plateaued a bit, and for the first time, he’s noticing it.
Recently I started to hear him say things like, “I don’t want to draw a dinosaur on my homework. I suck at drawing.” or “Jared’s the best hitter, he smacks bombs. I didn’t get any hits today.”
These comments sting my soul.
Every time I hear Eli disparage himself, I feel sad. I miss the swagger. I miss my bragger.
The world has sucked the air out of my puffed up boy. His brothers’ constant digs, his friends calling his bluff, and the natural realization that he actually isn’t the best at everything has taken him down a few notches.
I’ve started to long for the over-the-top, exaggerated stories of his legendary performances in the field, and his inflated version of test scores.
Yes, Eli’s been hit with a dose of pragmatism, but personalities are hard to change. I’m hoping that deep down inside he still thinks he’s the greatest, and this self-doubt is just a phase.
We were sitting at dinner tonight reviewing the events of the weekend and Eli began regaling us with tales of his dramatic adventures behind home plate. “I’m the best catcher on the team for sure!” he exclaimed.
My heart sang.
I’m pretty sure he’s got a way to go to be the number one catcher, but I’m thrilled that today he thinks he is.