Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Now we are six
Yesterday was Ben’s last day of being five. Five is my favorite age. I know Ben was once four, but I think I will always remember him best at five: hair still blonde, skin still smooth, eyes that still twinkle when they happen to catch mine. Five is uninhibited, yet somewhat civilized. Somewhat.
In the school hallway, Ben’s class stands in a squirmy line, some kids rocking back and forth, the boys unable to keep their hands to themselves, the girls giggling in high-pitched squeals. Just on the cusp of losing the remainder of their baby fat, they smile with dimpled cheeks when I walk by. Some wave. Some recognize me as Ben’s mom. Ben beams. He is wearing his birthday crown.
A month ago, I received a phone call from the school nurse.
“Ben has a fever,” she said. Twenty minutes later, I walked into the health office where Ben sat on a small cot, arms crossed with a scowl on his face.
“Where have you been?” he cried. “I have been waiting here for two to five hours!”
Time, to a five-year old, is a long, fidgety, incongruous line, much like the line of kindergartners coming back from their music class. In April, when I told Ben his birthday was about 60 days away, he joyously marked the number 60 down on a piece of paper. Yesterday, one day was much too long.
“My birthday is not for a million years,” he whined.
“I wish MY next birthday was not for a million years,” I retorted.
“What are you even talking about?”
(Five-year olds are a very, very self-absorbed group of peoples. They make up for this by being completely potty-trained.)
Five-year olds still play happily with members of the opposite sex. Next year, the girls will start chanting, “Girls rule and boys drool!” and the boys, offended, will start to prohibit the girls from playing ball with them during recess. Today, there are no gender disparities yet. There is wide-eyed innocence, some selfishness, and a lot of running.
Recess is a tangle of legs and arms on monkey bars, noise that reminds me of ice cream- joyful?-and teachers gossiping with other teachers on the periphery. This is where Ben’s classmates are corralled, under a tree, to eat donut holes and sing happy birthday to Ben. A little girl from another class approaches me and asks for a donut hole.
“Sure,” I say. This was a mistake. Twenty other children swarm around me and I put the donuts down and get the heck out of dodge. When they disperse, there is nothing left in the container but a small trace of white glaze, the same white glaze Ben carefully licks off his fingers.
“Now I am six!” he says to his class. I kiss him goodbye.
“I’ll see you soon.”
“Just a little over an hour.”
“Oh. That’s sixty minutes.”
Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne
When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new
When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more
When I was five I was just alive
But now I am six, I'm as clever as clever;
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.