Thursday, May 31, 2007

5 is the New 18

Who knew 5 was such a big year?

This year has been full of milestones for Owen, and they all add up to the same reality: he's officially becoming a kid. And he's taking me with him into kid land. I'm not sure I can explain what I mean, but this year, I have become aware of the world of the kid, which is much more complicated--for child and parent--than the world of the preschooler.

The world of kid includes, but is not limited to, the following: stronger friendships, deeper conflicts with friends, more complex feelings about self and how the self relates to the rest of the world, wiping one's own bottom every time, team sports, going to school, an increasing vulnerability to the influence of the outside world, more intense mothers and fathers, better insults (usually reserved for younger brothers or mothers), eye rolling, and the first whiffs of peer pressure.

Apparently, the threshold to kid world appears the year a child turns 5. The changes I see in Owen over the past few months are, for me, some of the most painful yet because I can see him growing away from us. Yes, yes he's only 5, but even this glimpse of his growing away gives me a sense of the emotions I will face when he's 10, 13, 18, getting married, beginning his tenure-track position as a professor of literature...

At the same time, I ache with pride and happiness as I watch him move forward. The most recent age 5 milestones were preschool graduation (no one warned me about preschool graduation. I went in cavalierly, with no tissues) and tonight--the last game of Owen's first season of t-ball and his first trophy.

I cannot describe the joy in Owen's face as he held that trophy. His whole body smiled, his eyes brimmed with pride and pleasure; then he looked over at us, saw pride and pleasure there, too, and amazingly, his face, already as brights as I've ever seen it, brightened further.

I know he has to grow up and away, but my hope is that he will always look back. Look back to see if we're watching. Look back to see if we're proud.

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