{6}

You turned 6 almost a month ago, now.  But that’s how December is, has always been, this sticky spider web of time, and I’m only now sitting down to think about your years.  Last year was a big deal because you were a whole hand; this year you cannot be contained, your years spilling out from that one hand.

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And yes, December is so much more than your birthday.  There was the wrapping up of Thanksgiving, and the straight march through Advent into Christmas.  There was every reason why it’s been hard to reflect on this next milestone of yours, to offer you this gift.  But I know in my heart it’s harder than that, it’s more complicated than that.  Because, you see, we’re complicated right now, you and me.  And I know it’s right, and it’s even good, and while my love for you in deeply unconditional, we are learning to work our way through the hard parts of relationships, now.  And I want to teach you this, even while you are young, that yes, it’s hard, but yes, it’s good.  Things are that are worth it are never easy.  And sometimes, you and me, we are not so easy.

You’ve had quite a year:  you’ve stepped into a much bigger world of school, off at kindergarten this year.  It’s no longer about climbing playground equipment and playing with play-doh, but you were ready for the challenge.  You’ve picked up the routines with ease, and with no surprise, charmed the pants off your entire class, kids and grown ups alike.  You are gracious and unending with your compassion, and care equally for those in your company.  So much of this is no surprise to me:  you are relentless in all things, kid.  There have been surprises, though.  The bus? Man, that was a surprise.  I knew that you’d be fine, though the first few rides had me holding my breath, but what I didn’t know was that the bus would become one of the best parts of your day.  The proof is in the pudding, and on your birthday you came home with an arm full of rainbow loom bracelets and a handmade card to match from this motley gang of mostly older kids that ride that bus with you.  These kids, these big kids, care about you, this little kindergartner, in no short amount.

It’s been a year of discovery, of trying new things.  You had your first team sports experiences, both t-ball and soccer.  You learned what can only be felt: that flying feeling of adrenaline when your arms and legs and brain all get it together, and it feels good.  You are learning about being humble in your gifts, and about being a team player.  You are just as enthusiastic about cheering your teammates on from the bench as you are about kicking that soccer ball to the goal.  You are learning to work hard, and practice.

You had your first camp-out this year, with your Dad.  Leading up to this special trip, you were so careful not to make Renee feel left out, which had to have been like holding hard to a string tied to a hot air balloon, I know, but that’s who you are.  Even in your excitement, you kept your little sister’s feelings first.  Man, I love you for that, kid.  You are the best big brother these kids could ask for.

And that’s good, because in so many ways, it’s going to be hard for them to follow you.

Because you are so smart.  You are so strong.  You are so well-liked.  And that’s not to say that Renee and Griffin won’t be, too.   But you are a hard act to follow, my first born.

You are my first.  You always will be my first: my first kindergartner, my first bus rider.  I’ve never had a six year old before (and I know you’ve never been six before), so part of your lot in life is that you are helping me figure out how to be the mother of a six year old.  You’ve done it with each thing before – you and me, we’ve been working this stuff out together since day one.  And while you won’t benefit like Griffin from the experience and age that I’ll offer him at age six, you will benefit from my freshness.  I offer you my zeal to learn not just how to parent a six year old, but to parent a six year old you, Grant.

This year I see you setting your eyes on new sights.  Your world is growing, and your tether to me is lengthening.  And when you pull that tether all the way out, it snaps back harder each time, and often I’m the one you come crashing into.  And  you want to control that rope, lasso it this way and that, and you are fit to be tied when it is slack in the wrong places, taut in others.   We can have quite a pissing match, you and I, so I’ve learned it’s best to give you the tools, and get out of your way.

To celebrate this year, you wanted to go bowling.  This was such a relief to me, coming off of hosting a number of events in the weeks prior to your birthday, especially because you followed up this request with another for dinner out a one of your favorite restaurants.  We laughed our way through bowling, though it comes as no surprise that you are pretty good at it, and our dinner out was a redo of sorts from last year.  This year, there was no stomach bug.  And this year, there was ice cream.

You are at an age that feels like such an authentic version of you.  You are no longer just a reflection of what you see in Mark and I, and you are not yet tamped down by the world around you.  It’s the kind of thing that makes dinner conversation so interesting, and one of my favorite parts of our day.  One of the strongest things I see from you is gratitude.  You are truly thankful, for things both big and little, and this gratitude is contagious.  You name your thanks, and I’m naming mine:  Grant, you are six.  I love you, and I am thankful for you.

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