Dear Kien, You’re Six
You don’t fit on my lap anymore, but you still crawl onto it. It’s what happens when you straddle the line between baby and kid, as you have done this past year. Let’s not get this twisted though – you’ll always be my baby. You’ve agreed to this deal – I double check with you about once every two weeks, and I’m getting a lawyer to draft up a legal contract for you to sign.
It’s been a strange year of wanting you to grow up and wanting you to stop. Just stop growing up. You will probably remember very little of this year. It was both difficult and incredible all at once.
This year, your obsession with snakes and reptiles gave way to make room for bugs. Right about now, you’re geeking out over scorpions. We had a scorpion on our mosquito net in Costa Rica. After we caught the thing in a jar, we huddled with our heads together just staring at it. I muttered out loud to no one in particular, “I wonder if it’s poisonous.” And you muttered back, “Yes, very. It has a big tail and small pincers.” I’m getting used to you knowing more about things than I do.
Which brings me to the subject of school. Kindergarten. Well, that was… overwhelming. Nevermind that some of the other boys in your class looked like they should probably be on the middle school football team and you were THE youngest. I think we were learning right along side you. Kindergarten was a struggle for all of us. The first semester was rough – you not wanting to go and me running around like a mad person every morning trying to get us out the door on time. I’m owning my piece of the mess because the fall semester was a stressful time for me in my career and I’m sure I wasn’t as patient and compassionate as I know I could have been. That fall semester – there was a lot of yelling and crying in the mornings.
I think you struggled with the structure of school, the lack of transition from one topic/activity to another. The endless worksheets. Your mind likes to travel to worlds unknown by anyone but you, and completing worksheets did not fit into that world. So here’s what happened: At home and in your imaginary world, you loved learning about things like the differences between insects and arachnids, how trash decomposes, the ecosystems in a rainforest, how fossils came to be, and why chameleons can change colors . You love to learn. However, you hated school and so you wanted to skip that part. You know, the non-essentials like basic reading, writing, and math. You associated all that with worksheets and…learning. Here’s what saved us: the after-school program. Originally, we signed you up for brain games (aka legos) and sports (aka pushing our interests onto you). You loved brain games and you hated sports. In fact, on a number of occasions when we picked you up, we would find you on the soccer field intensely examining an ant hill located directly in front of the soccer goal. So everyone had to play around you and that was just fine by you, but perhaps not so much for some of the sporty kids. We quickly switched you over to Environment Club and it was like giving you oxygen. It was the thing that you looked forward to when you were struggling in the morning. It was the thing that reminded us and you that you love to learn. It was where you gained confidence and settled into school. And it’s led to some magical moments of the two of us in our own garden, tending to the plants and looking for bugs.
*And this is where I pause for a moment to shout out all the amazing teachers in my life and out there who inspire students to love learning. Ms. Stacey and Mr. Chris were Kien’s game-changers and I have so many friends who are game-changers as well. Thank you for what you do! Now back to our regularly scheduled program.*
You hit some big milestones this year. You learned how to swim. You quit your first sport – tae kwon do. (But we traded that for swimming lessons, so don’t worry. You’re not a quitter. You’re a negotiator, and I’m still a wanna-be tiger mom.) You learned how to read, but you’re too impatient to do it. Your lego skills are on beast mode. You made a real friend your age (you have lots of adult friends, so this was a big deal). You can do a jumping jack without falling down. You’re learning how to be a decent big brother…when you’re not ignoring your sister. You can shower by yourself, though there is no guarantee that your hair will get wet and there won’t be a glob of shampoo on said dry hair. You help with the dishes from time to time. You’re getting better at managing your emotions. I’ve witnessed many occasions when you stepped back from the ledge of that emotional cliff. For the last four years, you would’ve surely jumped off that cliff into a pit of tantrum despair every time. Big milestones, Kien.
But WAIT. Slow down, I’m not ready.
(Like when you were starting to crawl and I would push your butt down ever so gently. Why rush the inevitable of bumping your head on sharp corners and chewing on electrical cords?)
Let’s slow down and savor the moments when you let me smother you, and the moments when you reach out for me. I experience this every night when I tuck you in. You always ask for me to lay down with you for a bit longer. You always request that I wrap the blanket around your face so you feel secure. And when I tell you I love you, you usually try to be big and tough about it and responding with just a shy smile and head nod. I smother you with kisses before eventually getting out a mumbled and exasperated “Loveyoutoo.” And when I walk out the room and down the hall, you always call out for me one last time, to make sure that I heard you say a loud “good night!” and a not so loud “Iloveyou.”
On your last night of being five, I asked you to list your favorite things about being five. Instead, you asked me what my favorite things are. “Tell me three things. No four. How about five? Ok. Just ten.” Negotiator. Listing ten was easy. You gave me lots of favorites this past year. You’re growing up so fast, yet you still want to hold my hand. That was my #10.
So the last thing you said to me as a five year old was this, “Mom, did you know that you can erase the chalkboard and write a message on it? Well, after you tuck me in you should think about going upstairs to do that. Good night mom. iloveyou.”
I’m such a sucker for you.
Gotta go write a birthday message on the blackboard.