The Amazing Gift My 6-Year-Old Gave Me

I do a fair amount of public snarking about motherhood. It's not that I am unhappy as a parent, which I think is obvious if you know me even a little, it's that ... well, there can be a lot to complain about, okay? Yes, I realize I should be counting my blessings because some people are living on the street and fighting brave battles against horrible diseases and their children have tentacles for arms—my god, won't somebody think of the homeless tentacle children?—but here's the thing: I don't play misery poker, because it's not actually a game I'm looking to win.


Parenthood is hard no matter what your situation is, and I like to joke about the difficult things because 1) it helps me deal, 2) I take great solace in finding like-minded people who also see the value in occasionally referring to their precious beloved child's behavior as "turdbuckety, as long as we define a turdbucket as being full of both turds AND rabies-infested hedgehogs," and 3) I find that it's more important to me to talk through the bad times, because the good times are far more difficult to capture. The good times have a stronger place in my memory and my heart. Too often, I can't quite do them justice with words.

Which is all to say, it's not my usual M.O. to wax poetic about how wonderful something is, but oh, let me tell you about my kid.

I was worried about him starting school this year. Even though he'd never expressed a single concern, I had plenty to spare. Would he make friends, would he be able to focus in class, would he be bored, would he struggle, would he would he would he. As the first day of kindergarten approached, I started feeling an increasing amount of dread, and I wished I could smash my hand against some giant cosmic pause button and keep him the same age FOREVER AND EVER.

And, of course, he's done fine.

He's done more than fine, really. He's been doing beautifully. Not a single problem. He's made about a thousand new friends, his teacher loves him, he comes home chattering about all sorts of fun things they did during the day, he struts out the door in the morning with his backpack slung over his shoulder and a giant smile on his face. His handwriting has improved, his drawings have become colorful and complex, he talks respectfully of rules and being nice to others.

He is absolutely thriving. This makes me so, so happy.

The other day something happened that really drove home how much he has matured and changed lately. We were at our neighborhood mall where there's a small coin-operated kids' carousel, and both my boys were joyously sitting on a peeling, rickety horse, waiting for it to start up. A little girl hopped on and stood clinging to a handrail, looking for a horse of her own, but they were all full. As soon as Riley noticed her, he slid off the horse he was riding, smiled at her, and said, "Here, you can have this one."

Such a tiny moment, but as I stood there watching, my heart was pressing against my chest. I felt as full as a brimming glass of water, so proud of my boy.

He has grown into a smart, good-hearted, funny, mostly (mostly) well-behaved 6-year-old, and I wonder when I'll learn that it's not about pressing pause? It's about moving forward, growing and changing. All of us. What an indescribable gift that is.

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