My son Finn has been five for about six months now and I have to say – even though I say some version of this every year that we add another spindly blue candle to his (Superhero, Spongebob, Thomas the Train) cake – this is really is my favorite age.
Just look at what I wrote about him when he was four:
“Yesterday was exactly one week since Finn joined his sister at ‘big kid school.’ He is the youngest student in a school that goes all the way to the sixth grade; Finn still has the distinct whiff of diaper cream on him and yet he is rubbing elbows with boys on their way to needing aftershave. It is a delight and a confusing sight to see him here: he is a hit. Everyone loves him and he them, especially the older kids. ‘Hey, Finn!’ the ten and eleven-year olds call to him, patting his little hooded sweatshirt, his 4T pants rolled up so they don't drag on the ground behind him in the cafeteria. He swoons over the girls twice his height and tries to match the stride of the big boys, joking with them, teasing them, and they return his affections in that way that boys do, making crazy faces and grunting like small mammals, which they are. Everyone is pleased with this situation, save Finn's sister, my sweet girl and soon to be seven-year old, Reese, who is completely mortified by the antics of her little brother. And, in addition to being mortified, is also, loving and worried and overprotective. She tells me lunchtime is stressful, at least for her; Finn won't eat enough and he keeps raising his shirt up and dancing at inappropriate times. She doesn't know if she's up to the challenge of maintaining the force that is Finn. And I tell her, she doesn't have to; there are teachers there, aides and helpers, all she has to do is be his sister, his friend, but she looks at me as though I have no idea what I am asking of her. And maybe I don't. Or maybe I do. To love Finn is a full-time job, even for Reese, I guess.”
At five, loving Finn is still a full-time occupation, though far less a job. Even for Reese. They have more fun together; he gets taking turns (“OK, we’ll play Family for ten minutes and then Shoot ‘Em Up for ten minutes”) and though he can still be embarrassing, he now has learned empathy too, so the behaviors are milder, sillier, sweeter. He keeps his shirt on. He dances when he’s supposed to dance. His pants no longer sag from his tiny waistline.
And he is lovely to be with, so fun. Every sign we pass in the car he tries excitedly to read, absolutely stunned when he gets it right (“Ham-bur-ger? Hamburger? Really?!”) and – while, always an affectionate guy, he now also dispenses the love along with receiving it. Still, the feeling of him sidling up to next me and throwing his arm my shoulder catches me off guard – you’re such a big boy, I want to say, but I hold my tongue, not wanting to embarrass him or break the spell of his ease in the world.
What’s also come with five is kindness and an ability to be “the big boy” to smaller kids, to pay forward all the doting he has received. Everywhere we go, there seem to be a line of sticky three-year olds in his wake, wanting to be just like him.
Really, from what I can tell, five is the perfect mix of innocence and wonder and the ability to wipe your own tush when necessary. Five is Finn yelling out from the other room today:
“I’m a hero! I pulled off my own hangnail!”
Yes, you are a hero, Finn. My hero.