The Nerfous Nelly

Maggie has started ballet this term and I have been blown away by her confidence of rushing off to the teacher, standing with other little kids, listening to her beloved teacher Miss Marie, following instructions and actually having fun. There’s the odd look over to check I am watching, a wave or a quick run over for a drink and blow by blow description of what’s going on in case I missed it, but she’s doing it! She’s only 2 and a half!

There’s another little girl who has joined the class and she’s exactly the same as my Harper. An adorable little thing who is obviously confident when she is certain: of the people, the situation but when it’s all new it’s a bit full on. I have watched her and her Mum try and navigate it all together, through tears, through the ballet class holding her hand with a younger babe in a sling attached to her. I’ve watched both their frustration and then in the last two weeks, the distance between the two of them get a little wider, the happiness and confidence growing. I must be getting old because yesterday I sat and shed a little tear watching the beaming little face at her Mum which said “look at me Mum I’m doing it!” the pride from both of them, the relief from the Mum…success!

I have had myself a nerfous nelly with Harper.

Man did we have some classes like that. So many courses and classes that we enrolled into, that we left in tears and tantrums, so frustrated with herself that she just couldn’t get it together. So many classes that I held her hand through, let’s not forget that cross country race in Kindergarten that I ran while 7 months pregnant! So many school drop offs in tears, over so many years.

My little precious and beautiful nerfous Nelly.

Yesterday as I marvelled at Maggie Ballerina, shed a little tear of pride for this little girl and her Mum that I don’t even know, I thought about my Nelly, and just how far she has come. Now 8 years old, confident and so smart, so sensitive and in tune to herself and all those around her. She feels and thinks deeply. She is so much, all the parts that make her the person she is today: both the anxiousness and the confidence.

I wanted to tell any of you Mums out there who may have a Nelly themselves that it does get easier. While the problems and stresses for both of you change as the years pass, and no doubt get more complex as we start to navigate our way through tween and then into teenage years and young adulthood, there will be a time when they will let go off your hand. For Mum’s it can be heartbreaking, gut wrenching, all those feelings they are feeling, of course you feel them too. But bigger! It’s exhausting, but much like motherhood, you have no choice, and you wouldn’t want it any other anyway.

Stay strong, both of you. It will get better.

And then one day, your Nelly won’t even look back to check you are watching, they will just know you are, because you always were.

Do you have a Nerfous Nelly in your family?
Isn’t it funny how different all your kids can be even though they grow up the same? With the same parents? It’s amazing I think.


  1. By big girl is nearly 27 and she only recently shared with us how she used to lie in bed worrying that our open fire in the lounge room might catch the house alight (it was always shut down and safe). You see, all our bedrooms were down a long passage and her bedroom was the closest to the loungeroom so she thought she’d get burned first and wouldn’t be able to raise the alarm. Oh, my heart! I wish she hadn’t had that worry for all those years and had told us.
    Today, she is a beautiful, confident business woman, slaying it in her media job and currently exploring the UK with her fella for a few weeks.
    My younger daughter is 24 and is a registered nurse. She’s team leading and has student nurses under her wing. I am in awe of her confidence.

    Your older girls remind me very much of my girls. ?

  2. My Charlotte is the ultimate Nervous Nelly – lucky for her she is my fifth and last so I had the patience and calmness of “this won’t last forever” and confidence to battle for her. I remember one particular dance class where they moved venues and teachers and I had to sit IN the studio with her which was such a no no – the scary dance teacher telling me that if I left her she would be fine, but being strong enough to say – actually, I know my child and she won’t be – she’ll end up never coming back, I have to do the step by step with her. I slowly left the class and left her confident about going (and me leaving her). Such hard work, at 16yo it still is – anything new causes anxiety! She is also my competitive gymnast (although just “retired”) and she is the first to say that gymnastics has been her lifesaver, that she’d probably be still hiding in her room too scared to try new things or go out if it wasn’t for facing all those scary gymnastics things (out on the floor competing in scary stadiums, travelling to Nationals where parents aren’t allowed at their accommodation at all). Its a journey for sure!!

  3. Oh Beth you bloody made me cry! I’m on the train on my way to a Chrissy lunch – my first day out on my own without at least one of my boys with me in a very long time… and now I’m missing them already! I had a nerfous Neville who has grown into a beautifully sensitive pre-teen and now have a super confident, take on the world 2.5year old (and a newborn who is finding his place).
    I love watching them find their place and grow into themselves.

  4. What a gorgeous post Beth! It made me tear up too. There’s no nerfous Nelly in our house (too much the other way really!!) but my little brother was this kid. Beautiful Harper the big thinker.

  5. Julie Harris says

    Lots of the tears Beth. Mine is 11 and yes it does get easier in some ways. My nervous Nelly just last week stood up in front of the whole school and told them why she should be school Captain next year. She wrote the speech herself in the half an hour allotment they gave her. Proud as punch I am. Don’t care about the result. She did it. The girl that cried in Kindy because a nice Mum asked her for a playdate and she thought that meant I couldn’t come with her.

  6. Oh Beth, you hit the nail on the head every time, I had a nervous Nelly and remember sitting in on many gymnastic classes and holding hands whilst she was on the beam. She went on to compete in some major competitions and is currently on a round the world trip, including spending time in Australia…small world isn’t it? Hang in there everyone with little nervous people, it does pass…all too quickly. xxx

  7. My eldests (twin girls) were this to a Tee. They are now 7 and in year one and things are much easier. Sometimes it actually strangely makes me sad and miss the old days as I realize how much they don’t need me. But more so of.course I am most proud at how well they are doing and love watching them grow and become independent! (Even if I do shed a quiet tear when they turn around to say goodbye.)

  8. I can soo relate to this beth!
    I have been that child!
    I have struggled but I am strong and determined!
    my art is my therapy and I indulge in my solitude!
    I think that encouraging creativity helps these children!
    my parents always allowed my freedom to choose colours, fabrics etc.
    free play was all we had back in the day and it was good for my creative sensitive nature!
    I was always the one on her bed drawing and not particularly colouring inside of the lines!
    no lines for me!
    harper is adorable and I can see she is strong with her sensitive creative nature!
    we are all different and unique!
    much love mxx

  9. Thank you for this post Beth (and the other comments),
    I have an adorable (and exhausting) 2 year old nerfous nelly. I have so often questioned myself and what I may have ‘done’ to make them so nervous / anxious. Yet, know that it is who they are and I am learning so much from them.
    I long for the day when they will confidently walk away and not look back, as they come to realise the amazing and capable person that they are. At the same time my heart will break and know that the tough years now and before those moments have been filling them up and enabling them to take that big step.
    It is tough and once again I am reassured I am not alone – thank you.

    These intelligent and sensitive little people – who feel and think deeply are so special and will have such a wonderful impact on others and the world – when they realise their uniqueness, strength and find their passion!

    • They are SO important and there’s NOTHING you have done to make them that way – it’s just the way they are wired. Good luck, they will be fine with such a caring Mum who gets it x

  10. I feel like sometimes you could be writing about my daughter. She’s the same age as Maggie and whilst she is going through all things tantrums, trying to do everything for herself and just loving the learning experience, she is a nervous nelly. She’s so not like me in that respect but she really struggles with change and large group settings. She will just cling to me and not want to get involved but it just takes a while to build up the confidence to join in. She’s been getting better this year but still struggles.

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