Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not a "Baby" Anymore...

Dear Joey,

Tomorrow, at 9:13AM, you will officially turn five. No matter how much I try with my mind, I cannot make you stay young. Your mommy's been having a bit of a tough time dealing with the fact that you are not a baby anymore. Not even a little bit. In the past year, you have blown past all your toddler ways and have turned into a boy. I often reflect over the past five years, looking back at your chubby little cheeks and sweet little toes with a sense of awe, pride, joy, and some regret. Awe that you are you. Pride because you are a part of me. All the joy that you bring to our home. Regret because I cannot look back at the past five years without agonizing over all the little things I could have done better.

You are the smartest kid I know. The other day, I was helping you clean your room (okay, I was putting away the mess that I wished I could blame on a hurricane that was your playroom) and you told me to "STOP! Those books are for my bookstore!" Later, you told me I couldn't put away the Lego's, either, because they were for the "game" you were making.

This year, we had a big decision to make with your education. You see, you missed the age cut off for kindergarten, but we had the option to place you in a private kindergarten class. From the time you were born until this past August, we thought we had your education all figured out. In fact, we were excited that you'd be one of the oldest in your class! "Just think!" we said, "Joey will have such an advantage athletically and emotionally with that extra year." And then, damn it all, you were SMART! You had these really high test scores and can already read and write your letters and numbers and add and subtract and thus we were faced with a dilemma. What class would you be in this year? After much discussion and agonizing, we decided to go with the original plan and we still hope we did the right thing. The last thing we want to do is stifle you. But then again, you are only a kid once and we want another year without the responsibility of school work for you.

This past year has been full of new experiences for all of us. Namely, we joined the realm of "team sports" families. You are just now starting your second tee ball season and have made it through a soccer season as well. You did not take to the soccer team the way I'd hoped you would, but I understand why. During your first game, you were getting after it, being aggressive, scoring goals and collided with another child and ended up with a huge shiner. Shortly thereafter, a child pushed you into a wooden table at school and your lip was cut open so badly that it took seven stitches to sew it back together. After that, you didn't want to get in there with the other kids and I couldn't blame you! By the time soccer camp rolled around this past summer, however, you'd forgotten about the black eye and the cut lip and were back to your old self.

The evening we spent at the hospital ER for your lip was quite possibly the longest of my life. This was your third trip to the hospital in your short life. I somehow don't think it will be your last, as adventurous as you are. I'm trying to prepare myself for the inevitable, but I don't think I can. I think I just have to accept that you are a boy's boy and you are going to fall down and get hurt! And I have to let you.

You have really grown out of your shell this year, too. Your friends are numerous, but right now your best bud is our neighbor, Trevor. You and he went to Mother's Day Out together as toddlers, but his mother and I lost touch. Well, she and I reconnected and you and Trevor have become fast friends. You guys swam like fish together at the neighborhood pool all summer and when you were done, you pretended you were UFC fighters and boxers. And you guys played rough! You didn't know your own strength. I think you do now. He kicked you and you socked him in the mouth! His mother and I watched from a distance while your daddies soothed you both, dried your tears, and gave you both popsicles when all I wanted to do was scoop you up and rock you in my arms.

This year you've been to Great Wolf Lodge and Six Flags. You've been to the carnival and to the zoo. You've ridden rides, swam like a fish, learned to throw a spiral with your Nerf football, and hit the ball out of the park over and over again. You've been cut, scraped, bruised, and banged up. You've learned how to ride a bike and a scooter. You've toured a cavern under the earth and looked at fossils. You only speak "Transformer" and are obsessed with all things Autobot (and Decepticon, and Constructicon, etc.) You outgrew Thomas the Tank Engine and I think it was to make room for Optimus Prime. We have done crafts and baked cookies. There have been enough tears shed to fill the Grand Canyon and enough laughter to echo through to the heavens. We took you to the circus and you spent nights with all your grandparents (and great-grandmother). You've eaten in the finest restaurants in town and amazed the wait staff with your manners. You rock out to Eminem and AC/DC. You've learned to play your parents against each other (too bad we know better!) and you've grabbed your, um, private area and said, "Look at my balls!" You've shocked all of us with your language (sometimes good, sometimes bad) and you are a constant reminder that your Daddy and I have to be role models.

I don't normally put your name on my blog. I'm pretty careful about not posting too much personal, identifiable information here. But I have to explain your name to you. Do you know that you are a "Junior?" You are named for your father. Your name is strong and full of elegance and dignity. But there is another reason why we call you "Joey." It is physically impossible to say your name without smiling. It's like saying "cheese" for the camera. A smile automatically happens. I want people to smile when they think of you. I know I do.

So much has happened this year and each time I think that we have done it all, you come up with something new and my heart just stretches further. With every question I have for myself and every doubt on the inside that we are doing something wrong (Have I given you a good start to life? Were your first five years perfect? Did I do enough for you? Will you remember this time with joy or will you be sitting in a therapist's office years from now, lamenting over the fact that Mommy didn't play that game you made up that time?), my answers get stronger... I hope you will look back one day and realize that your childhood was one full of love. That we have taught you it is okay to make a mistake because we've all fallen down and made mistakes and gotten hurt, besides, perfection is boring.

And sometimes? A popsicle really does cure everything.



Karly said...

Very nice!!! Happy Birthday, Joey! (tomorrow)

Annie MacKenzie said...

This is the sweetest thing I have ever read. I could not stop the tears!!