Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Thursday, October 15, 2009 Take Five
I'm at that age where my birthdays become bittersweet. One more year under the bridge, never to return again. Surprisingly, so is M. Edium.
Monday was his fifth birthday. He's five now. Five is a big deal. Five is a milestone. It's half a decade. Most of my earliest memories are from when I was five. It's when you stop being a little kid and become just a kid. Four-year-olds can get away with all manner of shit that five-year-olds just can't. You don't fuck with five.
I haven't said all of this out loud, of course. But M. Edium has been looking so forward to this birthday for so long that paradoxically, I don't think he was entirely ready for what it really means.
We were driving in the car Monday evening and he said, "I'm not used to being five yet."
"It takes a while to get used to," I told him. "You only feel a day older than you did yesterday, don't you? Not a whole year."
He couldn't get over it. "Last night I was four, and today I'm five. Already."
"Already is right."
To be honest, I'm having a bit of trouble with it myself. When he was a baby, and then a toddler, I used to so look forward to having one less family member whose bodily waste didn't have to be physically carried out of the house. Being able to let him venture more than six feet away from me in public. Leaving the house on a ten-minute errand without packing.
And those things are pretty awesome. But other things were awesome too. Naptime was awesome. Naps he took on top of me were even awesomer. Adding a new word to the list of things he could say was always awesome. Being proud of him when he finally learned how to say a new person's name, or got through the alphabet by himself. All awesome.
And there are things that are awesome in the present tense. Like when he jumps into my arms from one of the bottom stairs, or asks me a question about Star Wars that I can answer, or the run-hugs he does when I drop him off at school in the mornings, or how much he loves to help us, no matter what we're doing. Those things are awesome right now. Today, he read a book to his class. AWESOME.
I think these things are even more awesome than it will be to have to learn about whatever obnoxious thing tween boys will be into next decade, or to always know exactly how many beers are in the house at any given time, or to have that inevitable realization that we're not the biggest thing in his life any more.
Seriously, I'm really not sharing any of this with him, but Monday night, after we put him to bed, he had a miniature existential crisis. It wasn't just that his birthday was over, because he's still got his party and more presents to look forward to. It's really just the start of his birthday week. But he cried softly in Trash's arms for a minute.
"Didn't you have a good birthday?" she asked him.
"I had a super-good birthday," he said sadly. "But it was my only fifth birthday. I don't have any more fifth birthdays. I'll never be four again."
I get that. I mean, look at it from his perspective. When you're that age, so much of your very being is tied up in how old you are, and he'd been four for almost as long as he could remember. In his view of the world, he's all but permanently four, except for a long time ago when he "was little," and before that there's nothing but dinosaurs. And now he's not a four-year-old any more. The very foundations of his existence have been shaken.
We said we understood. We explained how part of getting older is leaving things behind so you can move on to your future. We said it's part of life, and it happens to everyone. The terrifying, magical, endlessly rewarding miracle of time. And then he asked to be put back to bed and fell asleep almost immediately.
He'd better remember all that for me in three months when I turn 40. posted by M. Giant 1:29 PM 4 comments
I can clearly remember feeling that same way when I was little. It was like "But I'll never, ever be this thing again!" I don't know at what point I decided this, but I remember that eventually I started to believe that part of me would always be the age I had just left behind and part of me was this new age, but those things could co-exist. And even though that's not really logical, I still pretty much believe it. I've been reading you since M. Edium was M. Tiny, so now I'm getting a little existential crisis, too!
M. Edium has my sympathies, though for me, the mid-kidlife crisis age was six. Six! Six meant real school, and the fantastically old neighborhood kids of eight and ten being willing to let me play with them and not treat me like a total baby, plus six just sounded so much more grown-up than five, to my ears. It was exciting, but scary. I'm sure M. Edium will adjust to his new mature status with no trouble.
I turned 20 a month ago...it was tough. I'm not a teenager anymore! Being a teen was a huge excuse and I can't use it anymore! That lasted for about a day until I realized that I was 364 days from being able to drink legally. Many of my friends and co-workers say that 25 was a really hard birthday.
What is it about the magical number 5? My earliest memory is crying the day before my fifth birthday because I didn't want to be five - I wanted to be four for the rest of my life. Sometimes, I still do. :)