When you were born, I counted your fingers. Five on each hand (phew). Your nails were thin and delicate — and sharp! We had to put socks on your hands to keep you from scratching your eyes out.
Your knuckles were tiny dimples. Your hands were so new, with so many things yet to be touched and held. So many buttons to press, and puppy tails to pull, and rocks to throw in the ocean, and noodles to navigate into your mouth.
Eyes closed, you wrapped five perfect digits around my index finger and squeezed tight, trusting me blindly with your life.
And today, the number of years you’ve lived so far is the same as the number of fingers on that hand. You’ve had five years of gripping handlebars, holding ice cream cones, and flipping pages in storybooks. Five years of squishing clay, pushing trains, and yes, picking your nose.
This past year, you learned to hold a hockey stick too. We watched you go from pushing an orange skate-aid to speeding down the ice – and wiping out at the end, of course. Stopping is a skill yet to be mastered. When ice hockey season concluded, you started playing floor hockey. You scored three goals at your first lesson, and later told everyone you got a “trick hat.”
You grew over three inches, according to Dad’s pencil marks on the wall of your bedroom. Holy cow, no wonder your pants are always too short. I can’t keep blaming the dryer. You’re the tallest kid at daycare. I need to buy you some new pants, pronto. We’re starting to alarm people; they think the flood is coming.
Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends have been semi-retired to Tidmouth Sheds, to make room for your Jedi training. You are learning the ways of the Force. Everything is a lightsaber: branches, pencils, spoons, and forks. (By the way, you really need to stop swinging those things near people’s eyes.)
Your Thomas rubber boots have been replaced by Star Wars sneakers that light up when you walk. When I pick out your clothes in the morning, you always put the shirt back and grab a Star Wars one instead. Whatever floats your speedracer. And whatever gets you dressed on your own.
You have another hero now: Indiana Jones. Or, as you used to say, “Indy and a Chones.” You still prefer jogging pants to jeans, but you also like your tan cords because they’re the colour of Indy’s pants. I’m sure this new fascination has everything to do with your love of archaeology, and not because Indy kicks bad guy butt. You have a plastic belt from a long-lost toy that, according to you, is “Indy’s whip”. (By the way, you really need to stop flicking that thing near people’s eyes.)
Your favourite songs are “C is for Cookie” by Cookie Monster, “ABC-DEF-GHI” by Big Bird, and Wavin’ Flag by K’naan. (No joke.) But let’s face it: your favourite musician is John Williams. You hum the theme songs for Stars Wars and Indiana Jones all day long. What can I say, you’re one classy kid.
Thomas is not complete history yet though. He’s still on your placemat, and on your pillowcase, and in the bathtub. Sometimes you go downstairs where we’ve stored your old toys to have one more chug around the track. The other day, you told me you met a guy whose name was Thomas. “That’s silly, right Mom?” All these years, you didn’t realize Thomas is a name for a person too.
You’ll go anywhere and talk to anyone. You’re an adventurous chap. But heights are not your favourite. You’ve yet to venture to the top of the tunnels at McDonald’s. And when I told you about the ladder you’d have to climb on the fire truck, you quickly changed your future career from fireman to policeman. You can be either of those things, son. But just so you know – Mom’s coming with you. Don’t argue with me. You may be five but I’m still the boss.
Whenever we part ways for the day, there’s an onslaught of affection that goes something like this: “Love ya. Love ya to the universe. See ya. Love ya. See ya. Love ya.” And then you open the door again and shout it across the driveway, since there was obviously time for a little more of that sweet action.
Frozen food is your favourite. Frozen anything, really. Last week when you were in the driveway playing, I peeked out the window to see you scraping frost off the car windshield with your hand, then licking it.
You want your hair to be “flat and not bright” so the kids at daycare don’t laugh at your mop-top. But they don’t mean any harm. They adore you. They shout “Max is here! Max is here!” as soon as you arrive. I won’t let you conform just to blend in. Your hair is unique. YOU are unique. And one day you’ll understand what a wonderful thing that is.
You are contented with simple things. When I told you we were getting a new car, you sighed, “But why? I like our old car.” When we were trying to decide what to do for your birthday party, you were excited to watch a movie at home and have cake with your family. You couldn’t have been more thrilled if I had proposed an Ewok parade in your honour.
But I wouldn’t call you humble exactly. You like to win, every time. At soccer, you like to make sure the other kids know the score: “I got FOUR goals, and you only got TWO, right?” When I slide down a chute while playing Chutes and Ladders with you, you cackle a little too maniacally for my liking. We’ll have to work on the whole humility thing.
You’re still not a fan of water. If people heard the squeals coming from the bathroom when I’m washing your hair, they’d think I was making toddler pie. Yesterday I said you needed to take swimming lessons. You said, “No thanks, I already know how to swim.” Clearly you don’t need lying lessons.
You’re a very thorough dresser. Before you leave the house, you must have your hat on, hood up, mittens on, coat zipped up all the way, bootstraps fastened in perfect symmetry, and, of course, sunglasses on. No exceptions. It’s spring now and you’re still bundled up like you’re about to climb Everest.
You love soup.
You cheer for the Habs. (Thank/blame Dad for that when you’re older.)
You like to rhyme. I say a word and then you say a word that rhymes with it, but you seem to favour the letters B and F. So I’ve had a bit of fun with that, I confess.
You never use the word “girly”, except when you run and tell me you heard someone say it. I am raising a feminist. Fist pump.
You are rarely sick and strong as an ox. It’s probably all that broccoli. We had a snowstorm a few weeks ago, and when we got home at the end of the day you took your little shovel and cleared every speck of snow off the deck. My hero.
You think body parts are hilarious. Last week you told me my boobs were chubby and my butt was bouncy. I’m going to go ahead and take this as a compliment. One night last week when we were lying in bed, you whispered, “Let’s talk about Dad’s stinky butt.” So we did.
You know your mom’s book “has bad words in it.” But miraculously, you never say anything naughty. When I accidentally say “crap” or “stupid”, you say, “Bad word, Mommy.” Darn it, you are so strict.
Dad found a bunch of boogers on the back of the couch when we moved it yesterday. A nice complement to the ones I found on your bedroom wall last week. Well done.
You are an X-Box addict. “Just one more level.” Dad and I threaten to throw the thing in the garbage at least once a day, but you call our bluff every time. Dad and I are stupid people. (Yes, I know. Bad word, Mommy.)
You’re having fun in your monthly Kinderstart class. One day you had to bring a photo of your favorite animal. You brought a snap of Splash and corrected the teacher promptly when she called Splash a “he”. “ACTUALLY, it’s a girl,” you asserted. Then you had to make an animal with a paper bag. You made an alien.
You’ll be going to school for real in September. I know you’re going to be fine, because I know you. You’re outgoing, friendly, and curious. I wish I could be a fly on the wall, watching your eyes light up as you learn about earthworms and constellations. Dad can’t wait to help you with your homework.
You know all your letters and can count to 100. You still need help to write them sometimes. You can sign your name like it’s nobody’s business. But anything requiring more than three letters is absolute torture. Thank goodness we didn’t name you Bartholomew.
Man oh man. Five years old. Look at you. That face. That smile…I can see every tooth in your head.
You gave me your hand last night so I could clip your fingernails, and I remembered how you wrapped those fingers around my mine when you were a baby. Your hand is bigger now, and busier – building and testing and exploring the world, all on your own. Every day for the past year, I’ve dropped you off at daycare and you’ve thrown those hands around my neck to hug me, then pushed my face to the side to kiss my cheek (and avoid the dreadful lipstick), and waved to me vigorously as I drive away. But when I leave you in the Kinderstart class now, you don’t even look back to say goodbye. You’re too busy examining new toys and meeting new friends. I guess this is how it goes. You’re letting go a little, loosening your grip. And so must I. You don’t need me like you used to, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. You’re a big boy now, ready to go off and wrap your hands around the world.
But guess what? You may not need me so much anymore, but I need you. And I don’t just mean for writing material. So don’t be getting any funny ideas out there, mister.
You’re more than ready for school, because I see now that you were a genius from the beginning. You tricked me, outsmarted me, turned the tables on me completely, and I never saw it coming. You started out with your little hand wrapped around my finger. Now, it’s my whole life wrapped around yours.
Happy 5th birthday, my big, big boy. Everything is going to be great.