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Monday, March 9, 2015

the Big Five - not so scared anymore

My son turned 5 last month. I was terrified and sad and sooooo emotional over it. I was worrying about all these what-ifs in the near future - "What if he doesn't meet friends in Kindergarten? What if they are weird on the bus or not safe? What if the teacher doesn't help him put his shoes on? What if we get a teacher who doesn't understand he needs to get his energy out? What if….?"

I was sad. I felt like my baby was gone… he's my firstborn so it's especially different seeing him change into this big kid. I labeled it the Big Five, because, well, it is. It's huge to become five. To see your once newborn turn into this independent thinker, curious hard worker, and determined little man is so weird. It's strange to imagine him not needing me anymore.

I cried for about a week when my son turned five, everything made me emotional and teary-eyed. Seeing newborn and toddler pictures, picking him up at preschool and thinking about how soon he'll be off to Kindergarten, talking about silly things he used to mispronounce that now he can say or even spell just fine. It all made me sad. I missed the little stuff. I was afraid "this is it, it's almost over, soon he'll be a teenager and not even like us anymore." My husband told me to slow down, he's only five, that's at least 10 years away, it's all good right now.

In the last few weeks since my superhero turned the Big Five, I've noticed that it's actually true, five is AWESOME and nothing to be afraid of. 

My husband told me this, my sister-in-law told me it'd be super cool, my friends told me to stop worrying. But I didn't hear them really. My son is the one who has shown me that being the Big Five is actually filed with Big Coolness and no worries.

It was about two weeks after his fifth birthday and we were at an indoor playground. My son, the social butterfly that he is (wonder where he gets it from?!), walked up to a group of older boys (maybe age 7) and said "Hey guys, can I play with you? It looks like fun. I want to play this game." So he went into the world of elementary age kids with an open mind, curiosity and independence like I'd seen a zillion times before with him, but this time felt a little more real. He then got swept up into some game where the boys were freezing everything with their fingers in a Spiderman type fashion, but they weren't bad guys (don't worry, this protective mama bear made sure her little cub was being included and not ousted as the bad guy). They were saving the world, making sure the animals were frozen so they could last forever and be safe. They were driving a plane with all aboard mentality, not leaving anyone behind. It was really sweet actually, despite my initial fear about him playing with the Big Kids.

It wasn't until my son and these older boys were on top of the play yard slide looking out at their world that they were trying to save, when I saw my son looking around, as he'd done many times before at playgrounds or parties, just checking in to see where I was, not needing me per se but just making sure I was around. He caught my eye, I waved to him with a grin, like he was my toddler again and about to run into my open arms… and he did the Teenage Head Nod and Half Wave. This is a thing. If you've ever seen teenagers or even remember being one way back when, you know this gesture… the "OK stay cool, don't make a scene, Mom, please, don't make a scene, I'm just going to give you a little gesture to make you know that I see you so you don't march over here and embarrass me, but I can't let the guys know that I'm talking to my mom because that's not cool." Oh yes, my Big Five year old gave me the half wave and head nod.

I almost died. I almost filled with tears. Again.
Until about 2 minutes later he slid down the slide, told his buddies "I'll be right back I need to find my Mom." And he came running over to me, telling me all about his new friends and new game and how cool it was and thanks for bringing him here and can he go back to play now.

He needed me. Even for a second. He did. It was there. I swear. I did not imagine it.

And so, this is how it's been the last month… my baby grown into this big kid who is flying by the seat of his pants into this great big world, exploring even more than I thought was possible back when he was into everything at age 2 and 3. He's learning so fast. We practiced spelling his last name in the car to and from school a couple of weeks ago and by the end of the week he'd memorized it. What?!

He stayed up late with me to attend a hockey game - his first ever, an awesome mom and son date night out - we were out until 10 p.m. - WAY pas his bed time. But I didn't worry about it, I knew he'd be fine, a little cranky the next morning but fine. He was great, SO intrigued by the game, asking a zillion questions, learning. It was awesome. His 2 year old sister had to stay home, way too late for her, but this Big Five year old could partake now that he's a big kid. He told everyone at the game "I'm five now, I can come to hockey games and stay out late."

Every week it seems I hear my son saying to someone "Well, I'm five now, so I can do this…" At swim lessons, he's the one racing into the pool, unlike his nervous younger sister who is taking her time getting used to it. He's an old pro at this, after two years of swim lessons. He's ready. He jumps in now and even went under water last week for the first real time without being scared. The look on his face, priceless. I'll never forget it. He was SO proud of himself. He didn't stop talking about it for two days, telling everyone, "I'm five now, so now I can go under water and I don't get scared about it. I'm five." He can swim in the pool alone with his noodle, he doesn't need anyone near him.

Wow. How did we fast forward to this?

And yet, like I said, he still needs me. Last weekend he was over tired and melting down over getting a time out. I went up to his room to check on him and he collapsed into my arms, sobbing, telling me all kinds of things that were on his mind. I sat in the rocking chair - the one that's never left his bedroom, the one he refused to give to his new baby sister when she arrived when he was two years old. He gave up his crib, his former room, baby clothes, swing, etc. but the rocking chair he refused. I've tried multiple times to move it to his sister's room since then, but he always says no, that he needs it, it's his. So we sat in his rocking chair and I held him like a baby and he sobbed into me, telling me what he was thinking. He wasn't the Big Five in that moment. He was my baby again.

When he hurt his hand outside shoveling, he ran to me asking for help, trying to contain his tears, but wanting some help from his mom. When I left him with dad all day yesterday and came home late at night, I pulled into the driveway and saw him jump from the couch and run to the door to greet me. A few weeks ago I started telling him random make believe stories about knights in shining armor and castles and dragons. Every night he asks me to lay down and tell him a story.

I am learning, slowly but surely, that my baby growing up is not a bad thing. It's nothing to fear. The worries are there, sure, they aren't going away just yet. I'm still nervous and will be a total emotional wreck when that big yellow bus shows up for the first time. But that's months away. For now, I'm enjoying watching my baby turn into a big kid, seeing the pride on his face at getting to do all of these new things, like signing up for T-ball for the first time and being able to stay outside longer than his sister who gets cold easily.

He feels like he's SO cool. And he is. And so is the Big Five. It IS cool. I'm realizing that and it's a wonderful feeling, to know that yes, my baby is still in there regardless of how many birthdays we celebrate. To realize that the learning and growing is way cooler than any toddler milestone could be. It's awesome over here, in Big Kid Land. So I may as well enjoy it.

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