He patted my head gently when he got home from school and saw I was still sick in bed with the flu. “Oh, Mom,” he started, pausing for a second to remind himself of the word he heard me use the night before. “Have you been … recuperating?”
I didn’t realize I was teaching him big words until he was already spouting them off. I can’t pinpoint when I stopped using cutesy phrases and started using real words for everything. Was it when he hit Primary? Am I automatically speaking to him like a real person because he’s … acting like a real person?
He turned six on Monday and I was, for the sixth time, startled by how much he’d changed in just 12 months.
It was so easy to mark the time during his first year.
I’d put him in a different-coloured cloth diaper each month, cut out little foam letters and numbers spelling out “four months old” or “eight months old,” and snap a few dozen pictures of him wriggling to escape.
I stopped taking monthly photos after he turned one. The scrapbooks stopped before he turned two, with his newborn sister on the scene. I stopped making monthly Facebook photo albums of him sometime after he turned four. Time is whirling faster than I could have imagined.
He used to struggle to open juice boxes and now he expertly flicks on the TV and navigates his way through Netflix. He was the scaling furniture and countertops as a toddler, and now he’s the one telling other kids that something is dangerous. He could barely speak until he was two and a half, and now he’s reading entire books out loud to me and his sister.
I keep seeing glimpses of him as a young man, in the loving way he talks to his little sister (well, most of the time) and the patient way he rebuilds his Lego creations immediately after they smash.
When I was struggling to stow one of the van seats recently, having no idea what I was doing, my not-quite-six-year-old jumped in and walked me through it. “Dad pushes that seat forward …” I did. “Then he lifts up right here. No, there. Yeah! You’ve got it!”
It is a strange and wonderful feeling when you realize your kid is old enough to help you with something. Especially when it’s something you were about to YouTube because you never, ever would have figured it out on your own.
We have years to go before his first stick of deodorant or his first date, but every time he speaks like an adult it’s like he’s standing a little taller.
“That’s my alma mater!” he shouts proudly when we drive by his old preschool.
“That was a really nice visit,” he says casually as we wave good-bye to company on the front porch. “I hope they drive safely.”
A friend from elementary school once told me that she never knew what I was saying because I “used too many big words.” I was surprised and a little flattered, but now I get it. It wasn’t that I was smarter — I really wasn’t — it was that I was always listening and soaking up those words.
I see the way my son’s ears perk up when I use a word he hasn’t noticed before and he asks what it means. I tell him, he’ll repeat the word softly, and then he’ll file it away to maybe use on his own someday. When he does, I’ll smile to myself and resist the urge to tweet — with a million heart-eyed emojis — that I see myself in him.
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