Tuesday, May 30, 2006



The Boy turned five this weekend. (Hence, the previous post about toy packaging.) Without really intending to, we’ve had an entire theme week around his birthday – a circus, his first minor-league baseball game, a lego store party, and the family with cake. He’s doing alright.

In previous years, the themes were usually trucks or trains. This year, the theme is water: a slip’n’slide, a Batman sprinkler, a cool t-ball contraption in which a sprinkler pushes the ball into the air for him to hit. The weather has been perfect, and TB has been outside more than inside this weekend, usually dripping wet. We even broke out the inflatable pool, so he and The Girl have been in their glory. We’ve sunscreened them to within inches of their lives (TW and I both come from pasty peoples), and subjected the poor lawn to an old-school beating.

He starts kindergarten this Fall, which is a blessing. He’s ridiculously ready for it, and The Wife is looking forward to having more of a break each day. (Our district has full-day kindergarten, which, for reasons I can’t fathom, is still fairly unusual.) We live within safe and easy walking distance of the public elementary school, so he won’t have the bus to deal with.

It’s a joy to watch him grow into himself. He’s a good-looking kid. He doesn’t seem to have inherited my introverted side. He just throws himself into whatever he’s doing, utterly immune to self-consciousness. I don’t think self-consciousness has even occurred to him, bless his young heart. He makes friends easily, plays well with others, and manages to leave his most annoying behaviors at home. And somehow, by some fluke of genetics, he has the spatial gene. I’m utterly hopeless with that kind of thing, but he has the knack. Watching me try to fold a map looks like a Charlie Chaplin routine, but he can visualize and build entire cities out of blocks and make everything look preplanned. He can assemble complicated toys while I’m still struggling with the instructions.

I worry about the tortures of adolescence, and my own ineptitude for much of guy culture. To the extent that I’m his closest male role model, he’ll have to compensate for some pretty major blind spots. He’ll have to figure out on his own how to be handy, how to make a jump shot, and how to talk to girls. I don’t know how to play poker, couldn’t pimp my ride if my life depended on it, and have never given a hoot about March Madness. The teen years were a special level of hell, and I can only hope that I’ve prepaid for him in some karmic way.

Not only will he not learn some key fitting-in skills, he’ll even grow up predisposed to rejecting some of them. He’ll see Mommy and Daddy in peace vigils, he’ll switch between our churches, and he won’t have a tv in his room. In the long run, that’s good, but those Lord of the Flies years are tough. Anything that sticks out gets hammered down. I worry already, and it won’t be relevant for another 6-8 years yet.

But that’s for later. Now, he’s five, and that’s fine. Kindergarten won’t know what hit it. And the lawn will grow back.

Well then, happy belated birthday to The Boy! He sounds like he's growing up beautifully! (And terrific news there's no school bus to deal with. I'm all angsty about the idea of sending our daughter to kindergarten on a buss.)

Like you, we worry about the same things for our not-yet-two daughter. I never expected I'd look for trouble so far in advance after becoming a parent. Neurosis I tell you. The Neurosis of Parenthood.
Happy birthday, Boy! I read an interview with Johnny Depp where he said, "Being a parent means you're worrying 10 years ahead of the curve." I thought that seemed accurate...
Not to worry you too much, but the innate cruelty of children becomes amply evident in kindergarten. In my son's experience (and he sounds very similar to The Boy), it wasn't until third grade that other children finally stopped persecuting each other for not quite fitting in. Kindergarten was VERY tough, even for his gregarious and seemingly self-confident soul.
Happy birthday, Boy!!

Oh Dean Dad, I so hear you on your worries for The Boy's future. In the deep of the night, my stomach churns at the idea of my boys facing half of the hurt I dealt with in school, particularly in grade school. It's one of my darkest parenting fears.

But we turned out okay in the end, and maybe even better for it. Love and a safe place at home go a long way to make up for what the cruel world can serve up, and it's obvious The Boy is off to a great start.

Tristan is starting school this year, too. Already?!?!?
Don't worry about your perceived shortcomings as a male role model--being THERE, and loving him, is enough.

He'll learn about March Madness, and poker, and everything else, from his peer group. Really, at about age 14, he'll start thinking they're way cooler than his parents anyway, no matter how cool or "typical" his parents might have been!

And happy belated birthday to him...
I was going to say that everything "cool" we learned as children we most certainly didn't learn from our parents, but Flavia already said it. Although, if it's any consolation, my brothers are now in their 20's and for the last 5 years or so my dad had enjoyed a blossoming new relationship with them after he shared Bob Dylan with them and they really liked it.

Dad has loved Dyaln for a long time and has every record ever recorded by him. Now, my brothers actually think my Dad is cool for his music taste (and for other things too). AND, my dad can talk to my brothers like adults. That's got to be pretty great for a parent too.

Anyway, Happy Belated Birthday to the Boy!
happy birthday! hope it's a good one for the parents, too.

it *is* frightening not to be able to help kids through some of the nastier times. I count on home as a safe haven being adequate for the most part.
Happy Birthday to him!

Parents often dread the teenage years -- but really, they aren't so bad. I love having a houseful of teenage boys. Their energy is just wonderful.
Awww, happy birthday to him.

I honestly think he'll be fine. If he makes friends easily, that's all it will take.
Happy Birthday Boy, and cheers to Dean Dad and The Wife. We're anticipating a similar lawn-ruining party next month for our kid. And she has a Nemo and a Marlin. It was weeks before I could enter her room without reflexively checking to see if they were floating dead atop the water.

Both your posts were very sweet. I like your modesty, but you should be _proud_ that you're showing him the model of a man who can discuss things deeper than March Madness. Good for you.
Ah, five! That is such a lovely age for children, when they are reaching linguistic consciousness and are curious and yet still remarkably strange, like slightly insane people, and you just go with it.

I lived with a faculty family when I was finishing my thesis, and they have two fraternal twin boys, who were five when I moved in. Aside from all their mutually reinforcing testosterone-fuelled antics, they had their moments of sweetness and light. Once, at poolside, they queried me as to why I wasn't married (they knew I "liked boys" as their parents are new Left radicals, and engaged, to no avail I might add, in an attempt to raise über-feminist, gender-neutral sons: they destroyed the purses they were given and burned the heads off the Barbies, so it didn't really take). So I tell them, "Oh, I just haven't found the right person yet." And they sweetly responded, "Don't worry Oso, we'll marry you!"

I laughed and told them that they were a bit too young, and they would find their own girl or boy when they were old enough, as I would eventually find someone too (which, remarkably enough, I did, so I guess everything we tell children isn't a lie :-). But the moment struck me for their absolute lack of homophobic loathing, their curiousity, their empathetic response to other people, as well as their innocence regarding the complications of human relationships.

Not too end on a sour note, but school ruined this a bit, with peer pressure and ruthless boy-formation. They are still wonderful, if somewhat cautious about the question of sexuality (now that they've learned from their peers that homosexuality is strange, they tend to think that I'm strange, which contrasts with their emotional relationship with me), but that has more to do now with their being teenagers (yikes, I feel so old writing that) and their own internal and private struggles with sexuality.

No worries about Boy's boy-formation. As any man can tell you, it is rough going, there seems to be no avoiding that particular briar patch, but we survive somehow, to become, ideally, the best men we can hope to be. Good fathers help a lot (wink).
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