Recently I spent a delightful evening at my sister’s house, celebrating our cousin, Anna, who was about to be married. Aunties, cousins, grandmas, sisters, and mamas – girls from five to 80-something – gathered and chatted and spoiled the bride-to-be as women do. I loved it. One of my cousins and I were talking with another cousin who has a six-month-old baby girl. This new mama shared some hard things she has discovered about motherhood, but then ended with, “I’m sure I will look back on these days and miss them.” My other cousin (who has two toddlers) and I looked at each other and shrugged. “Maybe.”
To be completely honest, I don’t miss those days too much. Oh, there are moments when I glimpse tiny pudgy hands or remember rocking my babies to sleep that I feel a twinge of nostalgia. I also miss all those rhyming and lift-the-flap board books. But mostly, I’m loving the stage my kids are in right now.
A couple years ago, I heard the saying, “The days are long, but the years are short,” and wholeheartedly agreed. Now, the days and the years are flying by, and I want them to slow down. I’ve started feeling like I’m missing opportunities every day to speak love and truth into my kids’ hearts, so every night, I try to remember to tell them: You are the girl I always wanted. You are the boy I always wanted.
My youngest is six (and a half, if you ask him) and in first grade. He no longer gets rocked to sleep, although we do still read books before bed and he asks me to “lay down for one song” when we tuck in at night.
Last year, when Jack was in half-time kindergarten, he accompanied me on many grocery shopping trips. On one such outing, after Jack cheerfully chatted with me along the aisles, then helped me bag the groceries, then put them in the car, then buckled himself in his booster seat and started reading a book while I walked the grocery cart back, I thought, in a few months, he will be in school every day, all day. Just when he’s finally old enough to be a pleasant, helpful shopping companion, I lose him. And it happened. This year, I do all my grocery shopping on my days off when the kids are in school.
There is something absolutely dear and magical about little boys, six years old. For one thing, they don’t have big teeth yet.
This little guy’s mind is exploding with knowledge about the world, yet he still conjures imaginative possibilities, intertwining reality and fantasy. When Jack was three, his most favorite thing to do was don a black cap and dance around the living room with a broom to the song, “Step in Time”. He was a chimney sweep.
Now he becomes Luke Skywalker, light sabering his way through the Death Star full of storm troopers. Playing with Legos is accompanied by loud sound effects and intense dramas, and dozens of quickly assembled creations that cannot be thrown back into the bin (because they are like, real).
Taking inspiration from Calvin and Hobbes, he recently found a big cardboard box and drew buttons and knobs and the word, “Duplicator” on the side. He climbed in and closed the lid over his head. When he emerged, he seemed genuinely disappointed that there was still only one of himself.
He still loves to dance. At my cousin’s wedding last weekend, he was a fixture on the dance floor from the time the music started until the bride and groom drove away. At one point, Ellie ran over to me, yelling: “Mom! Look at Jack!” In the middle of a particularly bass-thumping song, there he was, bouncing up and down on a groomsman’s shoulders, surrounded by 20-somethings dancing around them. “THAT WAS AWESOME!!!” he cried when he finally escaped the mob.
I observe six-year-old boy when I’m at his school, and I see him squirming on the carpet, in his chair, and in line. He touches or bumps into whoever is near him. Thankfully the other six-year-old boys understand, and usually it’s not violent enough to catch the teacher’s attention.
School equals recess and PE and science experiments, and LOOOONG passages of time in between that involve pencils and much erasing. He still says things like, “I had to do a fousand fings for maff today,” and his friend might say, “We thwew the bock chips at wecess and got in twouble.” His second trimester report card included the telling comment: “Jack is a spirited young man….” When he gets home from school (or I get home from work), we meet with big, crushing hugs and sloppy kisses.
John and I typically get one these answers from Jack in response to “How was your day?” (He is uncannily clever about preemptively striking follow-up questions):
1. My day was awesome. It was so good. Every single part of it was good, so I can’t tell you what was good about it.
2. I had the worst day in the universe. Well, maybe the worst day on earth. Don’t ask me what part was bad because every single part was bad. I can’t talk about it.
These responses are characteristic of a boy prone to exaggeration and the use of sweeping generalizations to avoid unwanted outcomes (ie, long conversations about his school day). This tends to put him at odds with Dad and Sister who are diametrically opposed to hyperbole and can dissect an argument with the precision of a defense attorney.
Jack became an avid reader, and I can hardly tear him away from books about volcanoes, Calvin and Hobbes, and the Disaster Strikes series in order to introduce him to the delights of Beverly Cleary (“I know there is a girl on the cover, but I promise you’ll like it!”).
He still has to be reminded most of the time, but he sets the table, puts away his laundry, practices piano, and picks up a room without help, and sometimes sings and dances while doing it. He practices ninja moves on the way to the bathroom and forgets what he went there for. He considers the consequences of war and decides that weapon stockpiling and mutually assured destruction are faulty constructs. He loves soldiers, but he can’t handle the thought of guns being used to kill living beings – human or animal.
He has innumerable quirks and habits. In 20 years, I wonder if I will remember his daily requests for “triscuits and cheese slices”, his abhorrence of wearing wet socks, a gross habit of wiping his constantly drippy nose (allergies) with the hem of his t-shirt, and his unshakable fear of entering a dark room alone. He measures people’s ages by whether they were alive during notable volcanic eruptions or earthquakes (so far he has met no one who experienced the destruction of Pompeii). When we come home and enter the house from the garage, he holds the door open for me, and walks up the stairs behind me.
Six-year-old boy daily perfects his role as a nuisance to Big Sister, but also repeatedly tells us how much he loves his family (even Ellie). In fact, love is his favorite word. When he talks about his love for God, me, and the stuffed cat and dog he sleeps with, his face squeezes tight as he flexes his whole body to show the fierceness of his emotion and devotion.
Poor Jack is a second born surrounded by assertive (bossy) first borns (Mom, Dad, Sister, little cousin “N” and little cousin “E”) who are used to wielding power and inspiring (commanding) respect. Jack has become a de facto middle child in our family gatherings, and sometimes people are surprised when he says something clever or demonstrates an accomplishment (Oh, yeah – Jack’s here, isn’t he?).
He never fails to make us laugh.
He really wants to be a volcanologist when he grows up, but also is determined to only go to college for one day, then come back and live with me, so we’ll see how that turns out.
Oh, Jack, you are so wonderfully you I almost deleted this whole post because I can’t possibly put into words how marvelous you are at six.
Ok, you were pretty marvelous at five, too.
I’m pretty sure you will be marvelous your whole life long, because you are the boy I always wanted. But you already know that.