After your shower on the day you turned six, I wrapped you in a towel, picked you up with great effort, and carried you out of the bathroom as if you were an oversized bundle, saying that this may be the last birthday on which I’ll be able to do such a thing. I delivered those lines lightly, but now as I think about them, they feel heavy. I’ve probably done the post-bath-wrap over 2000 times, pulling one side of the towel across you one way and then the other the opposite direction in criss-cross fashion to keep you warm, secure, and enclosed within my arms. But it’s getting difficult for my 100-pound body to lift you these days. As much as I’ll always wrap my arms around you, you’re far too big a boy to contain inside of them.
You’ve marked this past year with mammoth steps taken in shoes that you’ve finally tied yourself. You rode down our neighborhood street on your TWO-WHEELED bright orange mutant mongoose bicycle, scored your first soccer goal in your own cleats and shin-guards, and started at a new school in a very mature-looking polo-style uniform (which you didn’t want to wear). In all three instances you hesitated, stepping back in trepidation before you stepped forward to win what we call “the battle of the brain.” At first you feared falling off your bike, avoided the action in soccer practice, and clung to me crying when I dropped you off as a new kindergartener. But you learned that with practice you COULD balance on two wheels and take control of a soccer ball, and after over a week of teary drop-offs at school, I heard you tell yourself one morning, “I HAVE to beat this!” You still struggle with moving outside of your comfort zone, but you’ve learned that internal battles are yours alone, and that your success in mastering your fears depends upon leaving my arms.
And the truth is that much of the time, you don’t even want my arms around you. Whereas you used to always ask me to pat you to sleep, now when I lie down beside you at bedtime, my hand lightly on the small of your back or at the silky nape of your neck, you often suggest I go to grade papers or exercise. It’s something I used to remind you I had to do when you didn’t want me to leave at bedtime. Now you remind me.
You’re so independent, Finn. You took it upon yourself to make your own birthday party “invitashin” this year — over two months before your birthday. According to your version, complete with starting and ending times, menu, and pictures of dinosaur digging tools, the party would be eight hours long, and we would be serving ham, hot dogs, and eggs — despite the fact that we are vegetarian. You’ve also taken it upon yourself to write and illustrate a few of your own dinosaur books this year, such as Dinosaurs Rule!, which opens with a table of contents and contains hand-drawn hyperlinks, and DINO ABC, which identifies and illustrates a dinosaur starting with each letter of the alphabet and includes not only phonetic spelling but also a small human stick figure on each page for size reference. You’ve created your own board game, too — entitled, of course, Dinosaura — which cleverly allows us to use small plastic dinosaurs as game pieces, but has boxes that get incrementally smaller toward the bottom of the board so that when a player gets down there, only a dino’s tail can point to the proper spot.
Most colossally significant, however, is the fact that you’re a completely independent reader. Although I’ll always love reading with you every night, you still spend a fair amount of your time reading on your own, and even voluntarily participate in the accelerated reader program at school. You’ll read about anything, but prefer your science topics: you’ll sit for long periods poring over dinosaur information cards or digging for details in fossil guides or Jurassic-sized prehistoric animal encyclopedias, a hobby that has made you an expert. I never imagined that before the age of six you would surpass your parents in your weighty knowledge of a subject. My kindergartner has become my teacher.
I like to think that you’re mine, Finch. But you are in your own right a scientist, reader, soccer player, bike rider, swimmer, illustrator, and, yes, a little giant of a comedian. You are your own boy. A six-year-old boy. I’m so proud of you, Finn.
With T-Rex hugs…
I love you,