This month, my baby boy turned five years old. Five years ago now I heard his choked little cry before the nurses cleared out his throat, and saw his little round and red face scrunched up at me for the first time. Five years ago I fell completely, deeply, in love with this tiny new person, and he fell completely and deeply back in love with me (as babies are wont to do; the reciprocity is helpful for both parties 😛 ). And as he grows older, and as I learn more about him as he comes to understand himself and discover the world around him, I find that I only love him even more.
It is so wonderful to watch him as he grows in every way – social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical. This year he has begun singing, albeit in more of a “sustained talking” manner to borrow from The Music Man, and even sung Happy Birthday to his Bisabuela Carmen on the phone for her birthday! He is learning how to compromise and be flexible when playing with others (though I think people never stop needing to improve here), and how to establish rules and set patterns that minimize the chances of unexpected necessary compromise or change. He and Limerick have begun to do things in alternating patterns – who gets to snuggle with me at bedtime, for example, or who gets to pick first when they’re selecting toys – so that the negative event isn’t a surprise and the positive event can be anticipated. He even told me the other day that sharing (by which he meant both of them drawing from the same pile of toys) was hard for him, but when they could sort the toys into two piles first it made it a lot easier for him to play with Limerick, and I was proud of his self-awareness.
He has a keen and accurate memory, often reciting back to me his favorite books, or using phrases he’s heard from me in conversations with others. He’ll also take a plot line or a story from a book and alter it ever so slightly to make a new story – for example, retelling the tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff with a different animal like a pig or a cow for the main character. As the elements of the story become more comfortable to him, he’ll start altering them even more: building bridges with his toys and having a T-Rex lie in wait underneath them, for instance. It is so fascinating to me to watch his play incorporate the events, stories, and discussions of his life, giving him the chance to explore, process, and understand them in more depth.
He is an ardent collector of both facts and things, storing up information in his database of a mind, and storing up found treasures in a many-compartmented fold-open fishing box that he received for his birthday. Anything interesting or strange or beautiful, whether a concept or an object, is bound to end up in his collection, to be catalogued, admired, and shown to others with the excitement of revealing something precious and wonderful.
He is quick to anger, a trait he inherited from me, but his temper is paired with a compassionate heart. He is quick to apologize, and is often angry not on his own behalf but because someone else is hurt. I have seen him yell at Limerick because Limerick made Aubade cry; I have been lectured by him if I have been too rough and made Limerick upset; and he will physically attack anyone who hurts someone he loves. Unlike me, he seems willing to let his anger go as quickly as it comes – but like me, he can be moved to tears by the plight of even a fictional character (he was so devastated when he realized Littlefoot’s mother dies in Land Before Time… he tried to deny it and ended up crying in my arms.)
He is probably going to lose his idiosyncratic pronunciations of words soon, as he grows older, and I’m going to miss a lot of those. I mean, he’ll be easier to understand, but the way he says “booga” for “beluga” makes me smile every time I hear it 🙂
He has become an adept builder this year, with Viahart brain flakes as well as with Duplos, Legos, and wooden blocks. He can make representative animals with Duplos that are as good as anything I can create, and invents dragons and monsters with the brain flakes that incorporate features from around the animal kingdom – crest feathers, spikes, beaks, wings, tails, and so on. And everything he builds has a voice and a name and a place in his imaginary world for the day; he has shown little interest in the symmetrical shapes, stars, and patterns Limerick and I design.
And of course, he loves animals (though, as he would say, not as much as swimming or Mommy) – animals close and tangible, animals at the zoo, animals in books, animals in movies, animal toys, animal pretend games. He remembers which animals give birth to live young and which lay eggs; he remembers which animals hunt and which prey they are able to catch; he remembers what size many animals are, and which animals live near each other. Sometimes if I don’t remember some detail about an animal, but suspect that it had come up in one of the documentaries he loves, I’ll ask him about it, and more often than not he’ll know the answer. He also creates his own animals, absurd menageries of bears as big as a million houses, or monster fish who can hunt blue whales, and regales us with tales of their adventures.
His energy and imagination are abundant and bursting with life – which is pretty much just how things should be when a person reaches five years old – and he knows how to lose himself in happiness and wonder. It’ll be exciting to see where this next year takes him!