Now We Are Six

When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

A. A. Milne

Part of me would like to freeze my boy at this age forever and ever. He has matured so much in the past year that it’s a bit breathtaking. He grips his pencil elegantly, drawing his inventions with rapt concentration. He can colour inside the lines, and he wants to. He makes about three new Lego creations daily, many of which change their purpose as he goes. A train recently turned into a train, car, plane and boat, all at once, with a pulley to hoist the driver onto the roof. Currently he’s working on a museum of “amazing things,” including an exhibit of a dragon without wings.

He takes seriously his ability to create. When we went to a friend’s book launch in the fall, he came home and wrote two books (one was posted here). He was an author, and he was going to sell his books. (Actually, he did sell his books at our January Levée). When we took him to an exhibit of the art of Mary Pratt, he seemed initially bored. Recently, though, he has been equating good art with Pratt’s work: “Daddy, don’t I colour just as well as Mary Pratt?” Our friends’ daughter is a prodigy on the piano. The other day, I showed him a video of Natasha (6 years old) playing Mozart on a grand piano in a theatre lobby. He was duly impressed and disappeared. He returned moments later with a triangle, which he started dinging along with the video. He really had no idea why I was laughing. Then he took off to prepare for his own concert, which was to be later that day. I love the grandeur of his ambitions. He really does believe that if he puts a sign at the end of the driveway (we are the last house on a dead end street), his public will appear. And be amazed.

He is loving and kind. He loves his little brother so much that when he had to choose one photo of himself to show his class, he chose one with Seamus in it. He wouldn’t hear of using another one. He does, however, think his brother is a little germy. If he so much as touches the pacifier, he goes to wash his hands. He whispers “I love you” a dozen times a day, though lately his adoration often gets turned into a song/rap with nonsense rhymes. We shush this child more than we probably should, because he talks/sings incessantly. But when I stop and listen, I hear a smart and sensitive boy.

Like I said, part of me wants to keep him here, hold him at six, with his absolute certainty about both magic and nonsense. But I also want so much to see where he goes next, what he discovers, how he changes, who he becomes.

Nostalgia time:





I love you, sweet Owen! Happy happy birthday!

On being a baby

Voiceless, prone, powerless, even naked, I had a couple of experiences this week that made me feel like a baby. As I was lying on two very different tables, I considered how I might improve my own baby’s experience in the first months of his life.

The first instance was pure bliss. When I was pregnant, my book club friends gave me a gift certificate for a massage at a yoga studio. I have had only one other massage and do not remember it much. This one, though, either because of the zen atmosphere or the considerable skill of the masseuse, left me feeling actually loved.

The part I remember most was having my legs and feet lifted. I have never liked my legs. Tree trunks, elephant legs. My feet, too, are neglected. I had not polished my toes. My heels were a little cracked. And yet, lying there, legs lifted and massaged, how could I dislike something that was being treated so tenderly? My feet were held and caressed like I caress my baby’s feet. I don’t mean to say that the massage therapist loved me or anything. That would be weird. But she allowed me to love myself and to relax utterly. I felt like a baby must feel when rocked to sleep, allowed to rest in warm arms, cared for and protected.

My experience yesterday was less good. In the dentist’s chair, I felt not protected but powerless. I have had a wonderful dentist all my adult life but she has recently acquired a partner and somehow, by not protesting, I ended up as his patient. He is a nice man and his dental work seems very good, but he is not nearly as gentle as my previous dentist. Anyone who has been in the dentist’s chair knows the particular feeling of powerlessness I felt yesterday. “Does it hurt?” Well, it did, but I cannot speak to tell you so. The dentist discovered the pain by my attempts to bury my head back into the table to escape the needle. I have never been afraid of dentists, but I get it now. When he asked me to open my mouth for the third needle, I couldn’t do it. My jaw wouldn’t cooperate. In the end, I did it because I had to, but also because that morning I had taken Seamus for his 4-month vaccination needles. He, too, felt shocked and abused. He recovered, as I did, laughing out loud by the time we left the doctor’s office. I couldn’t laugh. I was too disfigured by the anesthetic.

The two experiences were so similar in that I was at the mercy of someone else. The whole time, I thought, this is how Seamus feels. And while the one experience was soothing, loving, and comforting, the other was disorienting and painful. Now, obviously, shots aside, I don’t hurt my baby, but other elements of the dentist’s chair were uncomfortable, like getting sprayed in the face with water, twice, or having water drip down the side of my face into my ear. It was like baby drool, but without the loving parent to wipe my face.

I am sure you get the point. Like us, babies want to be respected. They want adults to be kind and gentle. I am not saying I won’t still walk around holding a baby slung over my shoulder while carrying the laundry up the stairs. I am sure I still will. But I will try to respect his need for comfort and security a bit more because of my two opposite experiences.