Thursday, March 4, 2010

Forever Four

Thursday, March 4, 2010


My four-year-old turned five yesterday. Can I still call him my four-year-old? Can we just say that his age changed, but that's it?

I took it well--eventually. But the night before, I cried. I admit it. I'd been in a crappy mood all evening, and when Ron finally braved the waters to ask me what was wrong, I realized it was preparing myself for March 3. I've had the kindergarten paperwork for weeks and just haven't gotten around to taking it to the school. It's not like I pass it every single day or anything. I've been busy though. Really busy. And in denial.

So I finally took it by yesterday morning with the little guy in tow. I handed it over with only minimal effort on the secretary's part to pry it from my white-knuckled fingers. "Full- or half-day?" she asked. "Full. I think. I marked both and then crossed out the half." I didn't go into my explanation of why we chose full day, of the time I spent researching what would be best for him and his personality. "Full," I repeated. She smiled. "Call me if you change your mind." Then he and I spent the day together: library, Starbucks for chocolate milk and a cinnamon roll, reading and reading to him, lying down with him when he wanted to take a nap because he wasn't feeling well, reading my own book on the sofa opposite him and watching him sleep, taking him to the toy store. We had pizza for dinner at his request and then cupcakes for dessert. A perfect day.

My mother always says, "It's better than the alternative" when I complain about my kids getting older. But she also says, "It goes too fast. I hated sending each and every one of you off to that first day of school. Hated it."

The funny thing about her saying that is that as I was growing up, I never saw my mom as being particularly sentimental. She was busy all the time--busier than I am now with half as many children as she had. I felt loved and safe. But I never felt doted over, nor did I necessarily want to feel that way. That's what my Grandma Effie was for, and my sister who's fifteen years older than I am. But Mom? She was there to make sure I didn't kill my little brother, and to make dinner in the twenty minutes she had after coming home from work, and to take me shopping for clothes at the start of the new year, and to take me to the doctor or to a friend's house. Where is there time for sentimentality in any of that?

The thing about being a mom is that it's incredibly busy. Even when you cut life back to its basics it's busy. And it feels even busier because you want to watch every single minute of it as it happens and then again in slow motion over and over again. And again. So it's always going to go by too quickly, always going to be gone in the blink of an eye because it's impossible to slow time down to the pace that a mother's love finds satisfactory . . . because that pace simply doesn't exist.

I have several Moments in my kids' lives that I've pressed into my brain with a branding iron. And I love them--the moments and my kids--more than is sane some days.

Last night, my thirteen-year-old asked if I was going to miss the four-year-old birthday boy. I said, "Yes, just like I miss the four-year-old you." He didn't know what to do with that. Too sentimental a statement coming from a mom still busy being a mom.

But when he's forty years old and is watching his four-year-old blowing out his fifth birthday candle, he'll know what those branding Moments are like. And maybe he'll remember that time his mom got all sentimental on him. I will.

Happy Birthday, my forever four-year-old, no matter how old you insist on believing you are.


Ron said...

I'm so glad you write these. They make me happy and sad at the same time.

nice picture of the birthday boy :)

Mendy said...

I sometimes worry that my kids don't see enough of my softer side, but I think you're right - I don't think they NEED that. (And frankly it would scare the crap out of them). I'm so conflicted about the busy-ness of being a mom of young kids and trying to enjoy it. I know that I will miss this time later, even though it's hard to imagine missing this craziness. I'm so haunted by Anna Quindlen's quote (i'm sure you're familiar but just for the record):
"The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less."

Bobbie said...

I love Anna Quindlen. She says so perfectly what motherhood really is. I keep a journal for each of my kids. I'm not great about writing in it consistently, but I do try every couple of months to sit down and record the "living in the moment" moments. I say the journals are for the kids, but really, they're for me. I don't know that I'll ever be able to hand them over because I love going through them now and then to remember these little Polaroids that I've somehow let slip away although I thought I never would.