I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully comfortable with the way my kids look little and big at the same time. How can my baby be getting her own snack? How can my boy be riding a bike without training wheels? It is always most jarring with my oldest, since his firsts are trail blazing. By the time his younger sister is doing things, it’s already been done in our house. It’s exciting because it’s her first, it’s not our first.
As a five year old, Graham has mastered many of the tasks of a grade schooler. He puts away his clothes and makes his own sandwiches for lunch, but he still sleeps with a blankie, and at the dentist he chooses toys from the bucket of prizes meant for preschoolers. His life is balanced between big kid and little, and if it’s a constant surprise for me, what must it be like for him? When his class has library on Wednesdays, what makes him choose a Scooby Doo zombie book one week and a Dora pop up book the next?
This past weekend he was climbing a tree at the neighbor’s house just ten minutes after he had climbed in my lap for a snuggle. Today he found the book he was looking for at the public library by stepping up to the librarian’s desk saying, “Excuse me. Where are your Dr. Seuss books?” He didn’t ask me first, he didn’t want me to ask the librarian for him, and he carried himself like a big kid. After selecting both How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Hop on Pop, he wandered to the same train table he’s been playing with for over three years, and took Thomas and Percy through the train wash. Before we left, he checked out our stack of books and movies by himself, with his own library card. The one he was allowed to get last year after he memorized our address and phone numbers. All day long he’s intertwining big kid maturity with little kid play.
Lately, Graham has been coming home from kindergarten on edge. He gets a snack and about 30 minutes to decompress, but that doesn’t seem to help. When he climbs in my lap, he’s good for a bit, but then I start to annoy him. The one thing that does calm his nerves and soothes his temper is a shower. A hot shower after a long day at the office, sir? My five year old may as well walk in the door loosening his tie. When his day at the office is more “We finally closed that deal!” instead of “Damn that Ed from accounting,” he’s building awesome Lego creations, or finding ways to “accidentally” say toilet, butt, pee, penis, or poop. And then laughing like a maniac. He plays with stuffed animals, and loves Star Wars movies. He reads books, but would still rather be read to. He belts “Call Me Maybe” and nursery rhymes. He goes to school all day, but still kisses and hugs me when I volunteer in his class. The sight of him clomping around in his dad’s new snow boots this past weekend was the perfect visual for how I feel about my boy.
Is it always going to be like this? Will I always be shocked by how big my boy is, and yet how obvious his vulnerabilities are to me? I know he won’t always want to snuggle in my lap, and I know he’s going to really love the shower in a few years, but to me he’ll always be little. Even when he’s bigger than I am.