Janet Christie's Mum's the Word - why Middle Child was destined for the top

Children have ambitions of their own and will scale the heights whatever you do to stop them
Mum's the Word. Pic: S ChristieMum's the Word. Pic: S Christie
Mum's the Word. Pic: S Christie

Middle Child and I are sharing a moment on the sofa and we’re chill, as Youngest puts it. He’s dropped round post work at the climbing centre, one of his portfolio of jobs. I should have known he was destined for this when he used to climb out of his Velux window to sit on the roof of our house until Youngest Child, a toddler at the time, alerted me one day - “Look. Boy on the roof” - as I unloaded shopping from the car below in the street. Next day she drew the scene at nursery, where I hoped they’d assume it was the surreal nature of a toddler’s imagination as opposed to fact. Naturally Middle was banned from the practice and windows locked, but he probably still did it anyway.

Climbing was always a focus, even at school from primary one when I passed the playground to observe him and Eldest (as you do) and regularly saw him at the foot of the wall of the four-story Victorian edifice, gazing up. With the authorities having sensibly locked the access door, he settled for attempting to land a tennis or football up there instead, maybe bounce it up to the weather vane, the nearest he could get to the pinnacle of his ambition.

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So I’m not one for pronouncements on parenting (glass houses) apart from ‘do your best’, but I’ll hazard there’s no point trying to steer your kids into a career you think would be lucrative/rewarding, because they’ll follow their passions anyway.

Another of his passions being skateboarding, as we drink tea and spraff away, he’s telling me the best way to get across Leith Walk on a skateboard now the tramlines are laid, information he thinks I’ll need. Bless.

“You’ll need to ollie off the pavement,” he says, “and do one front flip over the tramlines, then skate across the middle, do another front flip over the other tramline, and ollie back onto the pavement on the other side.”

“Ok, I will. Or maybe I’ll dismount and use the pedestrian crossing,” I say pointedly.

“Yeah, you could,” he says reasonably, swerving a whole conversation about safety and helmets because he knows, and is in fact the family Mr Health and Safety, and we focus on the positive, which is that Middle thinks I will be using a skateboard as my mode of transport.