Kara is defined by two main characteristics: her boundless energy and her utter fearlessness.
Her energy sees her through gruelling weeks which include three long gym sessions, martial arts and ballet classes and Brownies. I don’t know where she gets it all from. Certainly not from me.
And her lack of fear means she will joyfully take on any challenge without a moment’s hesitation. Her fearlessness doesn’t come from me either.
I was reminded of both of these character traits – but particularly her fearlessness – when we met up with friends at Paultons Park last Sunday.
Theme park rollercoasters
You would be forgiven for thinking Kara might be a little tired. She had spent four days the preceding weekend at Butlin’s and then 14 hours at the gym over the four days immediately prior to Paultons.
But no. She bounded into the park, raring to go. She was the youngest of our collective group of seven kids but what she lacks in age she makes up for in enthusiasm and courage.
Our first port of call was the Wave Runner, an undulating raft slide which sends you momentarily airborne. Kara happily led the charge back up the five-storey stairs at the end of each turn.
After that we headed for the Cat-O-Pillar rollercoaster. Partly for nostalgic reasons – it was the first rollercoaster we ever took the kids on when we first visited six years ago – and partly as a warm-up for some of the less fearless members of our party.
Kara’s verdict? “Soooo boring, Dad.”
Suitably limbered up, we then headed straight for the biggest thrill rides Paultons Park has to offer. Flight of the Pterosaur, a high-speed, legs-dangling affair). Velociraptor, which includes both forwards and backwards drops. Magma, which is all about vertical drops. Cobra, all tight turns and small but violent drops. And The Edge, where you’re strapped, facing outwards, on a wheel that both travels and spins so that it feels like you’re constantly about to fly off the track.
Each of these rides had given her older brothers pause for thought when they were Kara’s age. However, she raced on to all of them without a second’s hesitation. She sat next to me on most of them and we would spend the entire ride with our arms in the air, grinning and joking about how the rides were too short and soooo boring. Every time we got off a ride and checked the photos, where other kids would be grimacing or screaming, Kara would invariably be smiling and laughing. She’s a proper thrill-seeker when it comes to rollercoasters.
That, at least, is one characteristic she shares with me.
Even after stuffing her face at lunch, she was straight back on to the big rides in the afternoon. Sometimes it’s easy to forget she’s more than four years younger than Isaac.
Kara the fearless
I love how fearless Kara is. It has been a big and obvious part of her personality from an early age. I well remember her taking off on her own down a narrow street in the Italian city of Lucca. Even then, she wanted to explore the unknown just because it was there.
I’m definitely not fearless. Fundamentally I’m quite cautious in nature.
Isaac takes after Heather insofar that he carefully assesses a situation before dipping a toe in the water. We always used to joke that the ideal Christmas present for him was a hard hat, a clipboard and a roll of that yellow and black tape you use to cordon off dangerous places.
Toby is more like me. He’s also quite suspicious of the unknown but has an occasional reckless streak. Sometimes he’ll launch into something without considering the consequences, immediately regret it and give up.
Kara, though, is completely different from all four of us. She throws herself into any new situation with complete confidence. Either she powers through it or she will find a way to make it work.
This is the girl who does somersaults on a 10-centimetre beam without fear of injury.
This is the girl who climbed up on stage in front of an audience of strangers to sing YMCA solo at the campsite karaoke evening during our summer holiday.
She is unstoppable.
The rollercoaster of life
To some extent, all children are fearless. They start life as blank slates. So the only way for them to develop is to embrace new situations. They learn from both their successes and failures.
As we grow older, most of us become increasingly … well, maybe not fearful but certainly circumspect. A lifetime of experiences teaches us about all the things that can go (and sometimes have gone) wrong, We learn that sometimes discretion is the better part of valour.
But that isn’t the case for Kara, certainly not at the moment. I hope she continues to stride as fearlessly into the unknown when she is 16 years old as she did when she was 16 months old. If she can handle the ups and downs and twists and turns of life’s rollercoaster in the same way she does amusement park rollercoasters, she’ll be just fine.