Rufus is 5 years old and he is more grown up than most 30 year olds I know. He’s witty, sweet and astonishingly in touch with his emotions. Just the other day Eloise was given a magazine by somebody and Rufus came over to me and honestly said ‘mummy, I feel a little jealous.’ What 5 year old recognises that emotion and can express it so easily? He’s always been like it though and has always liked us to define words that help describe his emotions. He would tell us that he was cross instead of having tantrums, he would put his arm around me when I was sad without me having to say a word, he has just always had a level of sensitivity far more advanced than you would expect.
Now Nick and I are fairly emotionally intelligent too. Not to toot our own horn but we have both been to counselling at various points to address specific issues as well as more general concerns. We talk a lot about how we feel and we’re both sensitive to each others emotional needs as well as our kids’ needs as they grow. I think without really trying we have passed these traits on to Rufus, and increasingly Eloise as well – although she is still more likely to punch you when she disagrees with something.
While I am incredibly excited to find myself the proud parent of an emotionally intelligent son, it does worry me sometimes. His ability to identify and describe his emotions, as well as his acutely accurate understanding of other people’s emotions means that he stands out in a crowd of his peers. I don’t mean to make it sound like he’s better than other children, he’s not, he’s just different and his difference can sometimes be a hindrance. While most kids are more likely to just feel their emotions, cry when they’re upset, hit when they’re angry, laugh when they’re happy, Rufus is more likely to be found describing them. He pontificates over what he feels and why. As a parent or for any adult in charge of him, this is extremely useful but as a fellow child it may seem strange. I have seen that for the most part Rufus enjoys the company of girls and there are studies to suggest that at this age, girls are more likely to have a better understanding of their emotions so it could well be that he finds it easier to bond with them. I know he definitely struggles to understand why the boys think ‘poo poo head’ is a funny thing to say. However as he grows up the gender lines will become more of an issue (although, of course they shouldn’t) and I don’t want him to be left out in the wilderness, unable to cope with the brashness of the boys and abandoned by the girls.
How can a boy who knows himself so well, find a place for himself in a classroom of people on such a different wavelength? The school have suggested that Rufus’s socialising be more closely monitored as they too have noticed his struggle to find a place. At his age I had a ‘best friend’ but after we parted ways, I really struggled and never really found a comfortable social situation again until my early 30s. I don’t want that for Rufus. I want more for him but I’m realising that just as I couldn’t force myself to fit in, I can’t force him either. I will just need to be here to support him as he finds his own way through.
No matter what happens though, I really am so proud of the boy he is, and if he can stay true to himself, the man he’ll become.