When my kids were smaller, I was part of an online community in which many of the mothers had large families (more than four kids) and a poll was conducted there once, asking which age was everyone’s favorite. Overwhelmingly, most people preferred the baby stage. I don’t remember what I voted, but I’m sure it was whatever the age my oldest was at the time. Because, frankly, though babies are very cute and perfectly sweet in their helplessness, mostly they’re just a lot of work, in my opinion.
And toddlers? Can you say “potty training?” Can you say (softly), “For the three-hundred-millionth time, Sweet Pea, we do not eat cat food?”
So, essentially, since I first became pregnant I’ve been wishing and waiting for these guys to get bigger, older and just generally more independent. Since I know how to be a Zen Master (should I ever want to attempt) I try to remind myself sometimes to enjoy what is good about the here and now because it will end, so I have enjoyed them at every age… sometimes. But mostly I assumed that I would wish their entire childhoods away. Until now.
Now J has reached the perfect age. I want to make him stay five forever. But I know that just like the nightmare that was pregnancy and the difficulty that was my kids’ babyhoods… all things, good and bad, come to an end. And the day will come that J will stop asking me those all-important questions like, “Mama, would an omnivore drink beer?” because he’ll think I’m the oldest, stupidest and most boring person on the planet. So, for now at least, I am finally the Zen Mama I always imagined I’d be!
The other night I said, “J do you know why we celebrate Christmas?”
“Ummm… is it just so we can pretend like snowmen can come to life?” he guessed.
“No," I corrected, "we’re celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus. It’s Baby Jesus’ birthday.”
(Those of you who are religious, try not to notice that if I’d been doing my job as a Catholic mother he really ought to know this sort of thing by now. See! Not so much a religious nut really!)
So he asked, “Oh… how old is he?”
And I said, “Very old… over two-thousand years old.”
Then his eyes got very big and he exclaimed, “You mean he’s DEAD?!”
(Wait a second... Was I so high on Hershey Bars last spring that I forgot to mention why we ate ten thousand pounds of chocolate for breakfast on a certain Sunday morning?)
And I said, “Well, um… yeah. Sort of...”
“And the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph? They’re DEAD too?!”
But before I could explain, he thought of a more pressing issue that needed resolving, “Mama,” he asked, “Is there geckos in the jungle in Hawaii?”
“YES OR NO?!” He demanded.
(Ooops… is it obvious he’s been raised by an impatient mother?)
I just couldn’t adore this age any more than I do. He asks interesting questions, sits still long enough to listen to the answer, thoughtfully requests clarification and additional detail, let’s me know his opinion on the matter… it’s like talking to an actual person! He's just really nice to hang out with.
And he has opinions on things that I really wouldn't expect. One day we were discussing various theories of how dinosaurs became extinct. And he asked me which one I think is true.
I answered, “Mama thinks the earth got very hot… blah blah blah.”
And J (decidedly unimpressed) said, “Yeah… that’s what Daddy thinks too… I don’t. I think an asteroid crashed into the earth and that’s how they died.”
But just like when life was hard and I would repeat to myself, “When things are bad, remember this too shall pass.” Now I sorrowfully acknowledge that when things are good, this too shall pass. But I hope not too soon.