Monday, February 20, 2012




In honor of his fifth birthday, Jack woke up at 5 am.

"Mom. Wake up," he whispered in the darkness.

No answer.

"Mom, wake up. It's my birthday."

No answer. I heard him leave the room and exhaled a sigh of relief. Not two minutes later I was exhaling a groan of despair as he shined a flashlight in my eyes. "Mom, can you please wake up? It's my birthday."

Jack woke me up at 5 am on the day he was born, too. And so as I stumbled out to the kitchen to brew coffee and stir up some birthday pancakes, I thought about that morning, five years ago, when I woke up to early contractions, a surge of excitement, and gnawing fear of the unknown.

There are a couple of different ways I could commemorate this milestone. I could write Jack a letter, I could list off his accomplishments, I could do a photo montage from the last year. Or maybe I could just start writing.

I remember my fifth birthday. We had rainbow cake plates and my closest friends and I gathered in a circle on the oblong braided rug in our kitchen. I remember going to kindergarten and having school friends and being able to cross D Street.

Jack's memory will be spotty prior to five, but he will remember this birthday and waking up to find The Present of All Presents wrapped in Christmas paper on the kitchen table. He'll probably recall that I made him wait an excruciatingly long time to wake up Dad and Sawyer so that they could watch him open it. I will save his paper crown that they made for him at preschool. He'll be able to look back at the pictures we took at dinner with all five of his grandparents and a great grandma, too. I made pepperoni pizza and served root beer- he was in heaven. I hope he will remember that he looked around the dinner table, eyes shining in the candlelight, and saw the faces of people who love him on that very special day.

The thing I remember most about being five is the freedom that I felt to come and go as I pleased. We lived on a dead end street with friendly neighbors and slow traffic. I think I spent my entire childhood roaming that Springfield hillside with my two best friends, Autumn and Keke. We climbed towering trees and erected elaborate forts and covered the entire street with sidewalk chalk more than a few times. We built go-carts and sold lemonade and fought like sisters. I couldn't have asked for more.

My kids have a sandbox and a fenced yard. We take them for bike rides around the block and we are regulars at our neighborhood park. It is a different life, for sure. I want to let go. I want Jack to experience independence and freedom. I want to send him outside to play and know that he will come home when the street lights come on.

Jack was feeling non-committal as Sawyer and Brent left on a bike ride the other morning. Once they had disappeared down the block, Jack decided that he wanted to join them and so he grabbed his bike and helmet and was off. I stood in my bathrobe and watched him fly down the sidewalk with just the right combination of caution and adrenaline. I soon observed a neighbor come running down his driveway to view the streaked spectacle, and I reassured him with a wave and knew that people were looking out for my people.

We went skiing again and this time I donned a pair of skis for the first time in many, many years. I was hesitant to take Jack up the chairlift because I worried he would dive bomb his way to the bottom while I skied helplessly in his wake. Once we got off the lift, he left me in the dust to do exactly that. And I watched him gain too much speed and start to lose control, and there was absolutely nothing I could do except wait for the inevitable crash landing. I arrived in time to wipe away tears and gather skis and mittens that had been thrown during the moment of impact. My eyes felt misty as he pulled himself together and skied his way down the rest of the slope, dutifully remembering to snowplow. Some things, I thought, you just need to experience for yourself.

Five is a pretty big deal. We anticipate a year filled with many new and exciting firsts and with even more episodes of freedom and independence. And we are ready. He is ready. Five is gonna be awesome.


  1. Five is certainly A Very Big Deal in terms of the birthday and the age/experiences. Nicely expressed as always - I'll admit I'm looking forward to hearing more of Jack's five-year-old adventures in the future!

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  3. My long-standing conjecture is that a person's five-year-old-self remains the essence of that person forever. If you know a girl or boy at five, it is that same person you will know when she/he is 95. His or her thoughts, beliefs, behaviors and attitudes may change throughout the years (heaven forbid if they didn't) but his or her warp and woof prevail.

    Happy birthday to Jack, a person I'd be happy to have as an associate no matter his age. And congratulations to his parents who helped him arrive at this magical time of "gelling" with joy, curiosity, opinions, boundaries, a twee bit of irreverence and a determined and confident mind of his own. Cheers.