five, going on fifteen
We are not yet at the point of measuring our own elderliness by our kids’ ages, but those days are not far off. Junebug reset the clock for us, so we can still think of ourselves as “young parents” for a few more years by virtue of having young children. Meanwhile Munchkin turned five last month – an age that straddles the little between early childhood and the self-sufficient realm of school-age big kids.
At five, Munchkin is at a crossroads in his development. On the one hand, school tugs him relentlessly forward into the future as he learns his letters and numbers and begins to grapple with early reading skills and basic arithmetic. He has been attending a French immersion pre-K and has picked up quite a bit of the language – far more than he had during our two years in Rwanda. He has also learned to rhyme and practices his rhymes relentlessly, which prompted an exuberant email from the English teacher at his school.
On the other hand, watching us dote on Junebug sometimes sends Munchkin into a regression toward babyhood. He emulates Junebug’s vague vocalizations instead of using his words and generally acts like a baby in the most literal sense of the word: behavior that would almost certainly be unthinkable if he did not have a younger sibling. Always a picky eater, Munchkin has narrowed down immensely the foods he will deign to consume. He also frequently gets distracted at the dinner table, playing and talking up a storm instead of eating. This drives S bonkers as she struggles to vary his diet and promote healthy eating habits.
A few months ago we wrote a post about our children’s spirit animals. At the time we were focused on Junebug, whose mannerisms bring to mind those of a small, furtive varmint. We didn’t have an animal in mind for Munchkin, but that has changed. Without a doubt his spirit animal is the squirrel. The amount and variety of random junk he manages to amass and squirrel away in various nooks and crannies of the house, in his backpack, and the pockets of his pants and jackets is mind-boggling. For weeks on end, for example, he kept a collection of rocks in the pockets of his favorite jacket, which bulged so much that it was difficult to buckle him into his car seat.
There are many times that Munchkin tries our patience – listening and sitting still are not his strong suits, and there are days when he is apt to transform any mundane request or occurrence into a battle of the wills. He also employs a long litany of threats and casually mean statements, most of them directed at S, when he feels like pushing our buttons. The newest addition to this list – “I won’t go to school!” – fortunately rings a bit hollow, since Munchkin loves school and absolutely adores several of his classmates.
On the flip side of the scale, we also have numerous daily reminders of his wacky sense of humor, curious nature, and gentle personality. He still loves reading, and after we finish his bedtime stories, he loves snuggling up in bed and engaging us in deep conversations or silly word games. For example, he called D “spud slack” for several weeks – a term he picked up from one of his favorite books, Potato Pants.
To our surprise – given his previous distaste for all organized group activities – he also has gotten into sports. After he told us how much he loves playing soccer at school we signed him up for a weekend program at a local community center, and when the weather is nice D takes Munchkin outside to practice his soccer skills in the alleyway by our house. The Munch also loves watching hockey, and D has taken him ice-skating several times – though in Munchkin’s case the activity could be more accurately termed ice-running: he would get set with his penguin sled and then run on the ice, kicking his legs high, to generate momentum to glide.
One’s fifth birthday is a big deal, so we took advantage of our proximity to family this year to prolong Munchkin’s celebration. D’s parents came down for his actual birthday weekend and took Munchkin on a field trip. Midweek D took the little man to his first-ever movie, and then the following weekend we threw a birthday party with all of his friends. And this week, when S’s parents made it down from Maine, they took Munchkin on an overnight trip to the Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park resort.
How did these early childhood years of Munchkin’s fly by so quickly? They seem to have passed in the blink of an eye even as they marked us with countless indelible memories of that unique mix of parental joy and exhaustion. We’re excited to see what wonders and surprises the next five years have in store.