Today you turn five years old.
I cannot wrap my head around the idea that you’ve been in our lives for five years. That seems impossible. Wasn’t it just yesterday that they yanked you out my womb and placed you trembling onto my exhausted chest? I come back to that memory of you often, the two of us meeting for the first time. I remember thinking, OH MY GOD I GAVE BIRTH TO A HEARTTHROB.
You are handsome. Your big eyes nail everything. Sometimes in the mornings I will roll over in bed and see you nestled into our bed, and in the darkness of those early hours your face is such that OH THAT LUCKY GIRL WHO IS WAKING UP TO SEE THIS FACE 10 OR 15 YEARS LATER. Most of the time I will want to grab my shades to block the sparkles radiating from your eyes, so I can go back to sleep. Except it never happens. You will ask, “What day is today? Is it time for school? Do we go play hockey today?” And then for the next hour I will nod in and out of sleep to the sound of you and your sister laughing and making noises.
School could not be going better, although there is the lunch issue. The not-eating-your-lunch issue. Besides that, you are enjoying every moment in school. The first day I accompanied you to your school, we met with your teachers and explored the various areas and features of your classroom. Tons of colorful letters and numbers on the wall, and blocks and games AND LEGO! DON’T FORGET THE LEGO! Mom, there is a whole box of Lego, I just love building Lego, that’s what you kept repeating to me for three days straight. And when you’d go to open your mouth at any point during those three days I’d hold my index finger to your mouth and go LET ME GUESS! LEGO! NOTED!
I remember that first day after I dropped you off, I lingered outside your room for just a bit and looked in to make sure that you settled in okay, and within seconds you were sitting calmly with the kids on the ground in the middle of the room. I saw you, in a sea of little heads, starting the next chapter in your life.
When I picked you up that afternoon you ran to me, held my hands really tight and in your trademark yell/scream, you started to report your day to me. I LOVE MY NEW SCHOOL AND I PLAYED ON THE COMPUTER AND THE MUSIC ROOM AND THE LIBRARY AND I REALLY REALLY LIKE IT! And then as we walked to the car you talked about the playground and your new friend whose hair looked like a mustache and the Lego and your principal with a funny name, and IT’S OKAY TO TAKE A BREATH, ETHAN.
It felt like a racing car commercial, here I am this disheveled suburban mom buckling in my kid who WILL NOT STOP TALKING, and it’s adorable, Ethan! Yes. But then all the words start to blend together, and the dialogue did not stop as I closed your door and walked around to the front of the car, I could still see your lips moving.
When I opened my door and climbed in, it was still going on, the paragraphs and paragraphs of school awesomeness filled every available inch of space in the car. And I sat there for a second looking at you in the rearview mirror and thought, we just did it. We just lived that day together, you and I, we just took that monumental next step forward, and I’m so glad that I got to do it with you. And years from now when we meet for dinner and a glass of wine, we will take about this day specifically. And I won’t even bring up the lunch.
One of the biggest developments in the last year has been your love of doing activity books. And the fact that you caught on so fast will forever amaze us. I don’t even remember how it was introduced to you, but we’ve never forced you to work on this at all, and never expected you to take to it so quickly and so passionately. Maybe the vocabularies, math, logic and quizzes, you love to just sit there and work on an activity book for hours. Frustration is always part of the game because you don’t seem to understand to take things slowly. All you want is to finish all the pages and start another book. Sometimes you become so quiet because you are able to do some pages on your own. And when you finally finish that page, you will lift up the book and look up to me. We don’t have to utter a word. And I feel your victory!
Yesterday after school, you suggested to do some craft together. I said okay, but I said I wanted you to tell me what to do. I was finishing up some dishes in the kitchen while you went to your room to pick up some supplies. You came back and asked me, “Mommy, how do you spell CUT?”
You mumbled, “One. C.U.T.” Then you asked, “How about GLUE?”
I walked over and saw you WRITING ME AN INSTRUCTION of how to make paper craft.
Considered that I’ve always been too lazy to teach you things, I have to say I was very impressed, thanks to the 400 activity books that you’ve been accomplished. Most importantly, when I told your father, he found you a perfect engineer material, a.k.a. geek.
So you are organized and logical. It leads to your being stubborn and unrelentingly difficult. This explosive personality constantly wears us out and makes us pull our hair. You are a fire we spend our day containing, and sometimes when we collapse on the floor next to the bed at night because we don’t have the energy to walk that extra foot. We think, okay, tomorrow we are going to figure this out, and then we giggle because we know that you will not be solved by a simple Google search.
Sometimes our days are really, really hard, like that one time you lost that piece of scrap paper out of the thousands of them. That night was like most other nights we lay in bed laughing until we cried about how you stood there screaming as your father shot laser from his eyes to me. Only he knew where it had gone. Only he knew that I am the one who has the habit to clear everything I consider junk.
This is life with a four-year-old. This is life with you, the kicking and screaming, the tackling and falling to pieces, all of it. It is a thrilling, exhausting ride with the most vibrant human being I’ve ever known, and my memories of this time are so colorful, so vivid and full of texture. My only sadness is that your memories of this time will not be as clear, so I want you to know that here, now, after a day of tripping over piles of sacred trash you have left in the middle of the floor, all of us together, we’re having a blast.