Monday, July 11, 2011

The Big Kid Era

Ben's tooth is wiggling. Indeed, more than wiggling. It moves back and forth so readily, I am certain it won't be long before the small gap in his bottom teeth, newly appeared as this bit of baby bone edges out, becomes a true hole waiting for the adult replacement.

I can hear the slightest lisp when he talks, his speech already impacted by the mere looseness. I see him take careful bites on the other side of his mouth. Sandwiches, apples, and carrots require a strategic approach. He asks me to look, pushing this passport to higher childhood back and forth with his tongue. I smile and make enthusiastic exclamations over how soon it will come out. He shows me how his top tooth is just beginning to budge, and I make silly jokes about how we'll have to start calling him "Toothless." He grins, catching my reference to How to Train Your Dragon, the movie we watched together when he was sick a few months ago. 

He turns six next week. The year of five has ushered him into the world of reading, biking without training wheels, skiing, and now, officially, swimming (for a dozen yards or so, at least). He is so utterly competent, explaining to me how how the remote-control helicopter he bought with allowance money saved for months works, reading quietly the Table of Contents of his new book to decide which story he'd like me to read, pointing out the rocket boosters on the Atlantis as it prepared to launch, teaching Abby how to punch "700" into the calculator, making a sign for the rocks he and Abby decided to "sell" at our garage sale Saturday: "For Free ShinY roks." But the physical evidence of his loose tooth makes the leap to big kid undeniable.

I remember in pregnancy thinking about this hypothetical person I was incubating, how excited I felt to snuggle this newborn against me, and how impossible it seemed to conceive of this tiny person growing into a six-year old, specifically. I remember thinking, What would I do with a six-year-old? I don't know how to play with a six-year old... In my pre-mommy naivete, bigger kids seemed so one-dimensional, so removed, somehow, from my vision of motherhood snuggles and giggles.

But now, I think, six may become my favorite age yet. Each year grows more and more magical than the previous. There are still snuggles and giggles, but now our relationship has so much more dimension than the days of feedings, diapers, and naps. We hike together and discuss homelessness and reminisce about when he and Abby were babies. He teaches me things, makes me dig deeper into my resources as a person because if my five-year-old son can look at a piano and figure out how it works, than surely I can take a few minutes to understand how this toy functions so I can fix it now instead of leaving the task to Josh when he gets home.

Ben delights me with his personhood. He is self-assured enough to present his tin of rocks--curated from our backyard and polished with a little soap to make them extra shiny--to garage sale shoppers, and yet innocent enough to believe rocks from the backyard are so precious and obviously valuable that he should curb demand with a limit of one or two rocks per customer so as not to exhaust his supply.

I love him.

We are a third of the way to official adulthood. We sold many of our baby things at the garage sale; pangs of nostalgia surfaced in quieter moments. Can it be we've already left the era of babyhood firmly behind us, the once-exhausting and seemingly endless stage now only a memory?

I look at women with grown kids differently now, already understanding the way they look at young mothers knowingly, remembering what life was like in its ups and downs because they've lived those days--and many more--with their own kids. I see how quickly the time passes between infancy and adulthood. And yet a twelve-year-old or an eighteen-year-old is unfathomable at the moment.

The growing up is insisting anyway: one year, one milestone, one loose tooth at a time.

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