Today you are five years old. My first baby, my oldest child, you are five years old!
Physically, you are a boy now, with almost no baby left. You’ve grown taller and your last traces of baby fat are being replaced by sinew and bone and skinned knees with every careen through the house. Your blonde curls are gone and your hair is decidedly brown with just a hint of wave. Your eyes defy categorization: no longer the blue of your toddler years, they hover somewhere among green and hazel and gold. Whatever their color, they are beautiful.
You love knights, Star Wars, dinosaurs, and the color orange. You use your Legos to construct elaborate vehicles and epic battle scenes. You like all kinds of building, really: cardboard box castles in the basement, blanket and pillow forts in your bedroom.
You love it when we read together; I love it too. This summer we started reading the Little House books before bed; one of the best parts of my day is snuggling up with you in your bed and learning what Pa played on his fiddle and whether Almanzo would get hurt in the icy lake. Lately our reading sessions have been ever more peppered with your questions: “What does ‘relentless’ mean?” “Which animal is the fiercest competitor?” More and more often I don’t have the answers; so quickly has your knowledge of science and the natural world come to rival my own.
Your memory has always been formidable, but now it strikes me that you are likely to remember forever some of the memories you’re making. Some of my own earliest memories are from when I was your age. It excites me – and, okay, scares me a little too – that the experiences you have now might become part of your permanent memory banks.
You played soccer for the first time this spring. You liked being on a team, even though your jerseys were yellow. You liked scoring a goal, even though you didn’t realize what you had done it until much later. And you liked winning more than losing. But mostly you liked wrestling with your teammates in between whistles and trying to give the biggest boy a piggy back ride. You also liked the snacks at the end. (Except for the fruit snacks. You do not like fruit snacks.)
You and I are alike in a lot of ways. We usually prefer quiet to noise – and we both struggle with the fact that quiet isn’t always easy to come by in our house. We are sensitive; we don’t like to see anyone or anything get hurt. We love history. And cheese. We prefer vegetables to fruit. We have “mutant toes” with which we can pick up things we’ve dropped. We don’t like to be corrected.
But you’re more of a physical risk taker than I ever was. You are a fearless climber. I’m the one who’s scared when you join the “big kids” to scale the rope tower at the park or climb up the monkey bars faster than I can move to spot you. You surprised me this summer by your bravery at swimming lessons, by your willingness to “go all the way under” and to try everything your teacher asked. Your enthusiasm for these thrills has been a lesson for me in letting go.
And you’re more outgoing than I am. As I lean more and more toward introversion, you extend yourself more easily – like when you chat up passers-by in the supermarket. (You told me recently, “I am obsessed with making friends at playgrounds.”) You assume that the world is a friendly and welcoming place. And for you, it almost always is.
It’s hard for you sometimes, I think, to be the big brother to a little boy and a baby girl with such big personalities. But it’s a role you play with patience and humor – most of the time at least. I see it everyday: when you show Joey how to ride his scooter or when you reach down to hold Katie’s hand.
Happy birthday, Danny. Happy birthday to the boy who taught me how to be a mom – and who keeps teaching me every day. One of the greatest gifts in my life is having the chance to be your mother.
I love you the most. The most on toast.