‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make
This is the chorus to one of the songs from the movie, The Greatest Showman. It’s a beautiful song, #spoileralert, sung towards the beginning of the movie, by both the young and old versions of P.T. Barnum and Charity (Hallett) Barnum. It is the song used to not only transition the story from Barnum as a child to a grownup, but also to illustrate this version of Barnum’s creativity and imagination and giant hopes and dreams.
The song starts with a young P.T. Barnum, a bit of a loner due most likely to circumstance but with big dreams, seeming to find the most comfort in his own thoughts:
I close my eyes and I can see
The world that’s waiting up for me
That I call my own
Through the dark, through the door
Through where no one’s been before
But it feels like home
I’ve been mildly obsessed with the soundtrack to this movie for the last little while. As a musical theater fan and former spotlight operator for the Higgins Middle School’s 1989 “production” of Barnum, this movie had my name all over it. The music for The Greatest Showman was written by the people who wrote the music for the Tony award winning broadway show, Dear Evan Hansen, another bit of music that I’ve spent time this year obsessing over. Whatever. I really like the music.
When I first heard this particular song, for some reason it made me think of Chloe. Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t think she’s going to grow up, join a circus, like I wanted to, when I was a kid. I’ve been trying to piece together what it is about this song that reminds me of her…
Chloe is in 3rd grade now and if we’re being honest with each other, this hasn’t been the easiest year so far. Transitions and pattern changes have never been incredibly easy for her. This year, she has a great teacher (again – we’ve been very lucky on this front), but he happens to be a he and that’s a first for her. While she’s not an overly (outward) emotional kid, she expressed that one of the “weird” things about having a man for a teacher was that if she felt uncomfortable with a situation in school, she wasn’t as “used to” talking to a man about her problems in that setting.
3rd grade, for her, has also brought a growing amount of social interactions, group activities, and friend-group formations. The timing of this is different for every kid I imagine.
I see a whole lot of my own neurosis in Chloe, for better, worse, or most likely, both. She and I both get nervous in large social settings (with one huge exception for both of us: camp). She doesn’t like any sort of public attention. She loves her routines and hates when they’re disturbed. She gets very anxious going into new situations. Any time we are going anywhere or doing anything she hasn’t done before, she likes to know exactly how things are going to go. She is also very competitive and strongly dislikes losing.
She watches a lot of her friends participating in the Girl Scouts, soccer teams, or various other activities. As expected and normal, these kids love talking about the activities they love doing but because she is anxious about trying these types of new activities, she ends up not being an active part of these conversations. I don’t blame these kids for wanting to talk about the things they are doing. She has told us, from time to time, that while she understands why her friends want to talk about their activities and doesn’t think its wrong for them to do so, she still sometimes feels left out. She knows it has been her choice to not participate in these types of activities.
We’ve been working on the anxiety she feels before getting into new situations, to give her the tools to take the proper and appropriate risks; to try new things.
To not be afraid to fail.
She has always loved school, and has always been a great student and we’ve been working with her teacher to help get her more comfortable there (so far so good).
I consider myself to be a very introspective person. I spend a lot of time in my own head, working things out. I find I’m generally my best and favorite counselor. I, thankfully if I do say so myself, have had a vivid and active imagination ever since I was a kid and it has never gone away. As a long-time software engineer, my profession is in the Realm of the Nerd™ but I get very strong, and almost constant cravings to express myself in other creative ways. Most of these things are sitting in my inner crock pot just waiting.
Chloe doesn’t articulate these things exactly but I can see it in her.
She loves to read. She loves math and is very happy to spend time alone, in her own head, playing with things she’s learned. She’s an information monger. She is writing a book (for real) and will likely finish it and get it published before I finish mine (I’ll tell you about that some other time). She loves to draw.
We’ve always thought she was very bright. I’ve written here before that I think she gets more of my jokes and sarcasm than my wife or Julianna. I’m actually not sure if that’s a compliment to Chloe or a shot at my jokes and my wife. I’m going to tell myself its the former.
The whole thing is a tricky balance. As her father, I want her to not only be liked and included (I believe she is both), but to also feel liked and included. I also want to respect her brain and her imagination and the power that I believe she possesses; her potential. I want her to understand that she can be both introverted and extroverted. I want her to learn that being selfless is much more rewarding than being selfish; that she should share herself with others, while at the same time being able to have “me” time.
Tonight, the four of us went to a Dave and Buster’s for some “the weather is so ridiculously cold out we need to get out and do something” fun. They both seem to really like that place but primarily the goal has been to attain as many tickets as possible and then go exchange them for some ridiculous prize or a 2’ pixie stick. We had a great time. My wife and I switched off kids as they each wanted to run in different directions in what was a very crowded place. When we had run out of tokens, and it was time to hit the prize room, Julianna found she was 368 tickets short of the prize she wanted: A giant unicorn from the Minions movie.
She came over to me and quietly asked:
Do you think Chloe will let me use some of her tickets so I can get the unicorn? I’m so close.
She was nervous to ask because normally, this would be a hard and fast “no” from Chloe. I told her she should explain the situation and ask. Julianna is normally incredibly eager to help her sister but Chloe has been…well…less eager. So she went and spoke to Chloe, explaining that she would “pay her back with tickets” the next time we came to Dave and Buster’s (they are opening one in our town so watch out).
And then Chloe said the strangest thing:
Well you should have seen the smile on Julianna’s face. She couldn’t stop hugging Chloe. We got to the car and as we were driving home, I heard Julianna tell Chloe, “I can’t even stop smiling.” I honestly don’t think it had anything to do with the actual unicorn but rather with how “sisterly” and giving and easily generous Chloe had been.
When we got home I had an opportunity to have a brief and private conversation with Chloe. I asked her how she felt when she helped Julianna out. I asked how it felt to see her face when she said “Ok.” I told her that while it might not always seem as “fun” to do something like that, making someone else smile like that, being so generous, is really what its all about and that we were very proud of what she had done.
So like all of us, she’s a work in progress.
Each day brings new adventures and challenges; new triumphs and occasional failures.
Right now, the girls are in Julianna’s bed, both sleeping (occasional sleepover night).
I imagine and hope Chloe is dreaming, always dreaming, of the world she’s going to make.