This week the baby of our family turned five, which, for the most part, is very exciting for me. She will start Kindergarten in the fall, and that will open up a whole new world of being at work or being by myself during the day, and that is an exciting prospect. I’ve been proudly sharing how excited I am about this with everyone who will listen, because I’ve been feeling SO ready for it after years and years of entertaining her during the day, and we all know how successful that usually is.
However, something happened in me that I wasn’t ready for when her birthday came this week. … It was like something coming down on me hard — some kind of weight, which led to a lump in my throat, which led to some tears in my eyes. I think it was because of how much she talked about being five on her birthday, and how it had immediately changed her. “Look mommy! My hands are bigger now that I’m five!” “Mommy — I’m great at this puzzle now that I’m five!” “Mommy, five year olds get TWO freezies instead of one, because their tummies are bigger!” “Mommy, when you’re five your mommy wipes your bum more, because you have to hold more toys when you’re going poo!”, etc. All this talk eventually led to this statement: “Mommy! I DON’T need to hold your hand now! I’m FIVE.” Sigh …
I’m realizing that the worst thing about all of this is that I don’t think I even made time to prepare for the inevitable sad parts of this moment, because I was too focussed on the exciting parts. It’s great to have a five-year-old for so many reasons, and I filled my mind with those things instead of making space for the sadness of what I would be losing. This is I think why I now feel somewhat kicked in the teeth by having a five-year-old who no longer qualifies as my baby, apparently: “Mommy. I am not your baby, I am five.”
And so I had to take a new strategy, that day she refused to hold my hand. It had all started because she stumbled and fell on the gravel, thanks to the giant basket of toys she had brought with her to the park and was now proudly carrying to the detriment of her ability to view the path before her. When she fell I helped her up, asked to kiss her skinned knee and tried to take her hand, but something in her was fighting that hard — I could see it. This idea in her head of being five apparently meant no more tears, no more hand-holds, no more boo-boo kisses. She grew rigid, then, and pulled her hand away, even as her eyes betrayed a few tears. “No, mommy, I don’t need to hold your hand — I am not a baby. I am five!”
And at that moment I realized we were facing a similar crisis, she and I. There had been no time for either of us for transitions or gradual entries — it had been four to five overnight, and we were both facing the internal struggle of such a quick and significant change. And so I tried a new approach: “You know what, five-year-old? I know you don’t need me to hold your hand anymore, but could you hold MY hand? I really love it when you hold my hand…”
And with that, she slipped her hand into mine and onward we walked, with no more words about it. Just two big girls, holding hands, helping each other move steadily forward.