On Turning Six
There is something I want to say about you turning six. In some ways, it’s about how you look up sometimes, and in your eyes I see a knowledge that is more nuanced and vast than I was prepared to find. Yesterday I spent the morning of your birthday at your school, and while I sat with you at lunch—a room full of kindergartners and third graders and teachers and long tables and garbage cans designated for organics and recycling—I marveled at how you navigate it all without me. How you are doing so many hard things without thinking they are hard. How you are brave without knowing you are brave. How my instinct is to pulverize anything that would dare break your spirit, but I know I can’t, because now you are six, and turning at full tilt into the world.
But in other ways, it’s about the way you look when we are reading in bed, about the way you nuzzle into my shoulder, the way you choose to hold my hand, even though it’s no longer a reflex. When you cry, you look young. When you sleep, you look young. When I teach you how to open a milk carton, and I watch the way you tug its front lip forward with your finger—careful and unpracticed—I’m reminded that you are still so small. There are so many things I still have to teach you. I count out the days until you are eight, twelve, seventeen, and I tell myself there is time.
Today, after we celebrated your birthday—the house fantastically loud with balloons and cake and snow pants and being six—your father and I went to a memorial for my cousin. There, too, we turned between reasons for gratitude and reasons to grieve.
There is something I want to say. In the darkness, while I sit beside you as you fall asleep--frosting under your fingernails, your fingers on my wrist--the words spin around and around, and I feel dizzy from the great force of your life. Be brave. Be soft. Be wild. Be kind. Be six. Let me always know what makes you happy. Let me remember the way you look tonight.