“Mommy, I had a bad dream. Will you sleep with me?”
It’s 5:30 in the morning, and I’m barely awake as I climb into your bed and wrap my arms around your chest. You’re still wearing your Iron Man costume from the night before, the one you’ve worn every night since Halloween ended a week ago. In your puffed-out, red costume you are the fierce protector of the innocent, a terrible adversary to any who dare cross your path. Except when the bad dreams come, and you need Mommy for reinforcement. And Mommy arrives, ready to fight any demons at your bedside. Because in a few days you turn five. And the days of Mommy coming to your rescue are slowly fading.
Yes, five is racing toward us like an unrelenting train, and I know when it arrives it’ll be time to get on board, to say goodbye to this temporary “four” station. For you, that train can’t come fast enough.
“I want to turn six,” you say with frustration.
I understand. You’re the youngest in your class, the youngest in your family, always a step behind the other kids. “Don’t rush it,” I reply. “Five is pretty great. You’ll see.”
Already, on the cusp on this new age, you’re starting to grow up, just a little. “B is for baby,” you report proudly when you return from kindergarten. “C is for cat!” Each day a new discovery. Your backpack is filled with sheets of numbers you’ve counted, dinosaurs you’ve colored, letter worksheets you’ve attempted. Every day you grow more curious, more eager to explore the knowledge around you. As I read to you at bedtime, you stare intently at the page. You’ve figured out that one day you’ll be able to read these pages yourself. Suddenly anything is possible.
You get on your bike and call out for Daddy to hold onto the seat as you pedal. He runs behind you and you squeal as you race down the hill. When you reach the bottom you jump off. “I’m ready to go home,” you declare, the adventure over. “Are you sure you don’t want to ride again?” Daddy asks. “Yeah, I do!” you cry out gleefully, and you’re off again. Five isn’t linear. It’s about starts and stops, fear and bravery. It’s about adventure and retreat, holding on and letting go, all in the same ride.
Five is cooking eggs and getting yolk all over the counter, but just enough in the pan to declare victory.
Five is fighting with your sister because she’s older and can do everything you can’t, and then snuggling beside her as she reads you all her books — even the ones about dinosaurs she lost interest in years ago.
Five is finally being able to solve your jigsaw puzzles, and having to accept that you lost some of the pieces when you were younger and less sophisticated.
Five is getting to choose what you want for your birthday dinner, and declaring you want doughnuts.
Five is wanting to take down the Batman poster still hanging on the wall from last year’s birthday party, but leaving it up because you “know that Daddy likes it.”
Five is asking Mommy for “sixteen hugs and sixteen kisses” before you go to sleep . . . and then wiping the kisses off your cheek.
Five is going to bed dressed like a superhero, and waking up calling out for Mommy.
And so, as I hold you in my arms, listening to your breath as you drift back to sleep, I think I could get used to five. Maybe even welcome it. Yes, when that five train rolls into the station, I promise not to look backward, but to focus on the many wonderful experiences ahead.
After all, how bad can an age be that begins with doughnuts for dinner?