Roald Dahl said that kindness was his number one attribute in a human being. He put it before any of the things like courage, bravery or generosity. I read this quote several years ago and it is our family rule. Be kind, it covers everything.
The last few years have been a little tricky, the death of my wonderful father, tricky schooling issues and a constant fight to get a diagnosis for my son. The combination of these challenges and the unpredictability of my son gave me severe anxiety at times.
The diagnosis journey is a story for another day, this story is about the kindness shown by those around us. The kindness that makes every bit of difference to my son and our family and boosts us during the meltdowns and tougher times.
Love of the outdoors
From a young age, my son would search for the biggest puddle he could find, lay down on his back with a huge smile on his face until the water trickled through his waterproofs. Den building is a daily activity in our house, with the absence of a big garden our living room becomes a mass of cushions, sheets and cardboard boxes and transforms into a world of imagination. Weekends are often spent in Petworth Park or woodland in the South Downs building dens and enjoying the outdoors. No great surprise, when you ask the middle one, what he wants to be when he grows up, he says “Bear Grylls”.
Meeting your hero
A good question for Bear, when we met him would have been to find out who his hero is. I imagine the nerves that C was feeling that morning while we waited for him and his family to arrive were similar to how Bear may have felt waiting by a glacier in Alaska for Barack Obama to arrive for a day of survival and discussion about climate change.
Dan and I were also a little nervous; I wanted the boys to be on their best behaviour and not lose the plot with excitement. This was Bear Grylls, survival expert, adventurer, presenter of multiple shows around the world, Chief Scout and author of multiple books. I was so incredibly happy for the boys to have the opportunity for some time with Bear and wanted it to live up to their expectations. I needed have worried one bit.
Reef sharks and mindfulness
The boys had lots of questions for Bear but the reality that it was so relaxed the boys ended telling Bear about our trip to Sri Lanka where we saw salt water crocodiles and black tip reef sharks. Dan and I chatted with Bear and Shara (his absolutely lovely wife) about being parents to three boys (something you only know if you are one) and everyday chat about the school holidays, our love for the outdoors, travelling and buying feathers for mackerel fishing. The family was so down to earth and we were all at ease within minutes.
Bear reminded the boys to be grateful for having each other; this is something I remind them of each day when they get into scraps and scrapes. They fight like cat and dog but love each other fiercely. Seeing his three boys, so much taller stood next to mine it is hard to imagine them at that age. They had gentle natures about them and the boys looked at them with total awe.
I was telling Shara about writing my first book on mindfulness, without realising quite how many books Bear has written (getting close to 100 I think); perhaps it would have been a good idea to get a few tips at the time. Each of the boys had written a card to Bear to say thank you for meeting with him and he took them home to read later.
Bear asked if we had been to his adventure park in Birmingham, I had no idea about it and we are very lucky to be heading there on our way home to experience some of the amazing activities on offer (a huge thank you to Bear for arranging this). Here the older two will be snorkelling, taking part in a high ropes challenge and an indoor sky dive. I have a feeling that this will be a place we visit many times on route to my sisters in Cheshire and to the cottage in Wales, I have put myself forward as the designated adult to snorkel and cannot wait.
Never give up
Bear’s motto is to never give up, one which C took on board straight away. There is one thing, hearing your parent telling you never to give up and another your hero. C faces many challenges on a daily basis, invisible to most people but apparent to those closest to him. He struggles with the noise of busy places, people brushing past him, sand on his toes, the textures of fabrics, while he tries to focus on something the volume of the noise around him amplifies causing him real distress. A whisper from me can sound like shouting to him. He often feels like giving up, life at times can be exhausting for him.
C has one of the biggest hearts I have ever known, he can be apprehensive when meeting people. When we told him that he would be meeting Bear Grylls, he could not believe it. He has asked me for several years if he could go on survival with Bear, can he go to the Bear Grylls Survival Academy with Bear, questions asked by children all over the country I imagine. This was an absolute dream come true.
We always remember a teacher from school who went the extra mile for someone, the pupil later became a top tennis player, or actor. In acceptance speeches, those people credit the teacher who spotted their potential, and believed in them when many didn’t. For C, meeting Bear was like this, time will tell exactly in what way but I know what an impact this special time had on my son (and the other two). The next day, the five year old was struggling to walk back up a huge hill he had just raced down. As he puffed his way back up, he turned to me and said “I never gave up.”
The simple art of kindness
A little later on we saw Bear in a shop, C headed straight over a gave him a great big hug. It was a testament to the warmth shown earlier by Bear to him that he felt able to hug him and know that he was in safe hands. Affection is not something that comes naturally to C and it takes time to earn his loyalty. Once you have it, you have his heart. I have a strong feeling that Bear has a heart as big as C. The kindness shown by him was like a sprinkling of magic on our family; magic that will stay with us for a long time. We have added a new rule to the family now, be kind and never give up.
A huge thank you to Bear and his family who gave up some precious time together to meet with our family, also to the lovely Verity for helping to make it happen, you are awesome.