Today you turn five years old.
It’s been over a month since you started kindergarten at the same school where Ethan attends second grade, and if I were to ask you how you like it I’m not sure which of the seven different answers I’d get. One day you will tell me that it is your favorite place in the whole universe and you would like to live there. The next day you will tell me that the boy with the blue shirt ripped off your drawing and because of that no one should be required to attend school ever. Or you will ask me, “Where am I going tomorrow?” And when the answer is school. You will start to grunt with a grimace on your face, “NOT AGAINNNNNNNNNNN!!!”
I picked you up from school the other day. I didn’t realize until we got to the car that you missed your hoodie that you wore to school that morning. I asked you about it. At first you were all, “I don’t know…” Then Ethan cut in, “Did you lose it?” And you stopped cold, straightened your arms angrily at your side and yelled, “I DID NOT LOSE IT. SOMEBODY TOOK IT.” “Who?” “Somebody. A bunny.”
A bunny took it. Me and Ethan imitated you saying that over and over again on the way home until I was blue in the face from laughing so hard.
“A bunny took it.”
“I have a wife.”
“Tomorrow when I am seven years old.”
“My pony has a unicorn.”
All of these ill-informed and dishonest things that come out of your mouth, they become inside jokes in our family that have us giggling for days. And that has brought us closer together, the mutual joy we experience because you exist.
You love biking. You are riding your bike around like a badass all over the place. You go uphill and downhill standing up with your butt off the saddle. You nail it! There are times when you show caution, usually… wait. I can’t think of any time when you show caution. None. Oh, wait, you don’t like flies. You run away from flies. But everything else in life you just attack with total abandon. And if not for the mischievous face of yours, I would never forgive you for giving me heart attack on a daily basis.
During summer my friend Ada and her kids came over to hang out with us for two weeks. Ethan inherited Zach’s obsession of toads and frogs. You and Katie spent the whole time developing imaginary soap operas between your ponies and princesses.
Katie is lovable, funny and carefree. Most importantly she enjoys eating so much that she will ask about dinner when she’s yet started her lunch. Every mother’s angel! Whenever she’s around I couldn’t take my eyes off watching her eat! It’s like my daily medication. And I think my addiction to it gave you a little discomfort and jealousy. You would start talking louder or acting much more flamboyantly to get the attention back. One time when we were having lunch in the kitchen, Katie was busy nibbling her bowl of noodle like no one else’s business. As I was watching in wonder I said, “Hey, Katie!”
You were sitting next to her and said, “Hey, mommy!”
Ha! Marking your territory! That one moment when your father and I exchanged knowing glances, and amazed how you just pulled the energy in the room back to yourself.
When your brother is worried about his homework that is due five days later, you will emerge from nowhere and announce, “Our school hot dog day is seven days later!” Your care-free personality saves me every day from the overwhelming circumstance of my adult life, where you heal the dread that wakes me up because what if one of the things I’m juggling hits the ground?
You have been pretty much the most delightful kid on the planet. At times, I can hardly stand it because you are generally just so happy about being alive. And that mood is contagious. I dare anyone to spend an hour around you without walking away singing a show tune and skipping like bow-tied buffoon. You are full of superlatives: the best in the world this, the most beautiful thing ever that. You are the one who still goes out of her mind at the thought of a sleepover at her grandparents’ house, a tray of freshly baked cookies waiting for her at home, a sticker that she thought she lost but her brother found it under her bed, the best things ever in the world that could happen. You are joy filtered down into its purest essence.
And I want you to stay like this forever. Remain here in this tiny body with your hands covered in pink marker, your hair tangled in chocolate ice cream. Stay here and let me get lost in your purity, free from deadlines and bills, free from anger and heartbreak and tears that come from intangible pain.
You are happiness in all of its definitions, in all of its forms, unable to be contained, unable to stay here forever. And because you won’t, because you will run head first into the burning building of what it means to grow up, of what it means to develop a sense of guilt and dread but also an appreciation for beauty and the ability to value who and what you are in these words that I have written, I will just look forward to the bumpy ride. Take me with you.