“Mommy, when will I be seven?”
You asked me this question the day after you turned six.
I wanted to laugh and tell you to slow your roll, but it was a serious question.
At six, time is important and something you’re working to wrap your mind around. You ask a ton of questions about hours in the day, days in the week, months in the year. If I mention what we’re going to do on Monday on a Friday, you want to know how many days until Monday. You will also want confirmation that Tuesday does indeed follow Monday. You know the order of the days in the week, but you like to have reassurance.
This is six.
I know you are already anticipating seven, but I want to savor the right here right now magic of being six. I want the hours, days, weeks, and months to stop moving so fast.
At six, you’re on the cusp of that elusive thing called “being a big kid.” You’re not exactly sure what it means to be a big kid, you just know you want to be one. Big kids do cool things like ride all the rides at the amusement park and pour their own milk on their cereal. Big kids don’t have to hear their mom constantly say things like “not ‘til you’re older, honey” or at least that’s what you think when you are six.
At six, you’re no longer a baby. You do not hesitate to let me know this when I use “baby” as a term of endearment. When I remind you that you’re my baby and always will be, you smile and tell me it’s okay to call you baby as long as I whisper it in your ear so no one else hears.
At six, your ability to apply reason and logic is emerging, which means my “because I said so’s” are nearing their expiration date. Although the constant “but why moms?” that emerged at five are still present, you now want to know how and when. At six, you’re connecting the dots.
Oh, and that conversation we had at dinner the other night about what hot dogs are made out of? I might have left a few things out and if that questioning look in your eyes is any indication, you know there’s more to that story than I’m telling you.
This is six.
At six, you’re in that sweet space between the land of babyhood and being a big kid. Your hands retain just a little bit of that pudgy, dimpled softness. If I close my eyes and listen to your voice, it sounds much the same as it did when you were three, four, and five. Then you’ll use words like “actually” or “buffering” and I’m jolted into the reality where time moves way too fast for me … yet probably not fast enough for you. You are so eager to test your independence yet in some ways, you cling to babyhood. My lap is still a safe, comfortable place but you don’t hang out there for long, unless you’re sick or scared. There are too many things waiting for you to explore and learn about (and take apart and break).
At six, you are capable of wiping your own butt and dressing yourself. You’re a contradiction of independent and helpless. You insist on picking out your own clothes but you’ll hand me your socks and say “you do it.” At six, you have the confidence to strut your stuff in tropical print swimming trunks and a plaid shirt because you not only picked it out, but you mastered all of the buttons without my help. You are not one bit interested in my protests that your outfit doesn’t match.
This is six.
I’ve had so many people tell me that six is the best age. I think they might be right. You eagerly help me load the dishwasher like it’s the coolest pastime ever, and your enthusiasm totally makes up for the fact that six-year-olds really suck at loading a dishwasher. You look to me for reassurance and affirmation and I sigh, smile, ruffle your hair, and tell you that yes, you are doing a good job (and then re-stack the plates when you’ve moved on to something else).
Life at six is black and white. Having a Popsicle after dinner on the patio equals big excitement, but the fact that I make you take a bath afterwards is a total drag. You talk longingly about being able to ride your bike without training wheels and learning to snap your fingers. It seems like your vocabulary is growing every day. When you use words like “boring” and “Minecraft,” I get a little glimmer of what you will look like at eight, nine, and ten, and I wish I were able to cheat time and keep us right here.
You know nothing of words like “despair” or “prejudice” or “intolerance.” You have no idea that the world we live in is a scary, uncertain place, and I will keep it that way as long as I can. I know I’m on borrowed time until the innocence of six slips away. I know I only have so many more times where you’ll sit on my lap and let me rest my cheek against the top of your silky, sweet-smelling head. I know there will come a time when Saturday morning snuggles where we begin our day with long discussions about dinosaurs or who our favorite Ninja Turtle is will be a memory. I know we still have lots of firsts up ahead but at six, I am painfully aware of the lasts.
You ask me when you will be seven. You want to know when you will be big.
To myself, I think, Slow your roll, kid. Let’s stay together in this land of almost-but-not-quite babyhood just a little bit longer.
To you, I say, “In the blink of an eye, my darling.”
And then I try not to blink.