Ever since I started making superhero notes for my son’s lunch, one of the most common questions I’ve gotten — just behind “When do you find the time?” — is “Where can I buy some?”
The answer to the first question is “There’s always time to doodle superheroes!” The answer to the second is “My new Etsy shop!”
On the eve of my son’s birthday, this is the final installment of “When I’m Five Years Old…” I had a half dozen others I could have used, illustrating things as lofty and disparate as picking up furniture, eating tacos, befriending giant trees, racing bullets and jumping on one foot up to the ceiling. Yet I believe this doodle encompasses all his goals of things to do/be/have when he turns five rather nicely. It gives voice to his greatest desire and my greatest dread — to be grown up as quickly as is humanly possible. Or faster.
When Jon was well into toddlerhood, I started longing for the days of his infancy. Of cuddles and cooing and discovery — and perhaps most importantly, immobility. He’s well on his way to becoming too fast for me, and long ago surpassed me on overall levels of energy.
However, as my 5-year-old lunges toward the future with each uninhibited step sprint, I realize how much of this phase of his life I will miss: the forming of opinions and independent thoughts, while still clinging close to the things Daddy and Papa likes best; trying on words and phrases — sometimes clever, other times defiant, occasionally profane; and beginnings and new adventures — school, friendships, sports, sleepovers, movies, reading — all of the things he’ll never do or experience again for the first time.
I avoid pondering how old I’ll be when my son (40 years my junior) is 8, 9, 10, in high school, college, married, a father. As one who is prone to worry, this does no one any good. I want to enjoy today for today and this age for this age. Not looking ahead in angst, not reminiscing with regret, but being present and learning how to hold and lead and guide while slowly letting go, so Jon can learn to hold and lead and guide himself.
I’m in no hurry for you to grow up, son. I hold these past five years in my heart, but hold my gaze on your path — repeatedly amazed that I get to watch every step and stumble and sprint that you take.
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It had been just under a week since we returned from a cross-country trip to visit our son’s birth parents. It had been just two days since our four-and-a-half year old started in his new preschool class. Papa was out of town, so Jon and I were chatting over dinner about this-and-that: who he knew in his class, how awesome his new cubby was, how he’s decided — after a two year break — to take up napping again, because apparently that’s what one does in Room 3.
I was also thinking ahead to the logistics of letting him have some iPad time, a bath and a story all before bed, while still leaving me a pocket of waking minutes to write.
Seemingly out-of-the-blue, my son asks, “When I gonna get new parents?”