Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Two weeks ago, Tobin turned five. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that I'm mama to a five year old. But then again, I'm not doing too well comprehending that in the next month or so I will have three kids, one of whom will be a GIRL. So much is changing in our little family, and I feel like I'm just kind of along for the ride. I feel quite peaceful and grateful about it, but very cognizant of how little of it I control.

Our Boy

So I catch myself looking (staring) at Tobin's face sometimes and studying how much it has lost almost all of its roundness and how his features are more refined. He is so much more my boy than my baby now. While there is some sadness in letting go of that part of who he is, there is much joy in watching him experience life. Throughout the past year, Tobin would randomly and somewhat frequently say, "Mom, I just really like being four." Or "Bein' four is really fun." And hearing him say that always made my heart swell with gratitude, because on a very simple level that's all I want for each of my kids--for them to be happy.

By extension, this past year in Tobin's life has been fun for all of us. One of the biggest additions to our family life was preschool. Heading into the school year, I fretted a bit about how my somewhat shy firstborn would handle the new social experience. His school year ended last week, just a day after his birthday, and I can unequivocally say that it was a wonderful experience for him. He loved school and would often remark on the way home, "Today was my best day of school yet, Mom!" He made some fun friends, quoted his teacher Miss Julie as an authority on many issues and learned many valuable things like "Nobody's perfect, Mom. Except for Jesus." This particular lesson was relayed to me one evening as the counterpoint to my contention that Tobin's pace in picking up toys left something to be desired. (Touché, son.) I just can't imagine his school experience having been more positive.

Tobin also has enjoyed his forays into organized sports. Soccer was fun last fall, and I'd venture to say T-ball has been even better this spring. Tobin is one of the youngest and smallest members of his team as his team includes four- to six-year-olds. But he's done really well, showing improvement in hitting and fielding throughout the season. His coaches are great, very encouraging and helpful. And Matt and I are always proud to hear Tobin's voice from the dugout during games; he's one of the most enthusiastic supporters of his teammates when they're batting. He's really embraced his T-ball experience with the positive, pleasant attitude we know and love.

Pleasant. That word sums up Tobin so well. He remains such a pleasant and gentle child. Sure, he has times when he's neither. Life as a big brother apparently requires that you yell and occasionally push your little brother away, especially when he's trying to mess with your stuff. And of course, he disagrees with some of his parents' rules and scheduling from time to time. But those moments are relatively infrequent and fleeting. Mindful both of how quickly he's growing up and how much will change when I'm tending to his newborn sister soon, I've especially enjoyed the past week, his first week at home since the end of school. It's just nice having him home. He plays with and entertains Evan. He's cooperative and helpful during whatever morning errand I have planned. I asked him the other day if he misses school, and he said, "I like both: being home with you and Evan and being at school." One of my favorite parts of each day is when I tuck him into bed, kiss him and whisper something like "I love you. Have sweet dreams." He'll often reply, "Have sweet dreams, Mom. The way to not have bad dreams is to just open your eyes."

There are so many more things I could say about my boy at five, but one of my most poignant experiences right now is watching him as a big brother. Unsurprisingly, Evan adores Tobin, and Tobin in his own more subtle way reciprocates. At school pick-up, more often than not, Evan would get the first enthusiastic hug when we reunited with Tobin. Tobin's also really proud when Evan learns new things. Today in the van, Tobin dropped his bag of Goldfish crackers and Evan started saying, "Dropped it? Dropped it?" Tobin exclaimed, "Mom, do you hear that? Evan's saying 'dropped it.' That's two words together!" He's also pretty protective of Evan. When we're at a playground he sticks close by Evan most of the time, following him up stairs and down slides and even occasionally intervening when another kid "bothers" his brother--e.g., retrieving Evan's baseball cap from another toddler who took it.

Also unsurprisingly, Evan antagonizes his big brother, which Tobin also reciprocates. But I feel that Tobin is getting better about not retaliating. Lately, Evan has been hitting Tobin and even throwing inappropriate objects (Matchbox cars) at him--sometimes provoked, sometimes not. Tobin is more likely to appeal to Matt or me for help, rather than responding in kind. Of course, he's also quick to recommend that Evan needs a timeout. I know we'll continue to spend a lot of time and effort negotiating these sibling encounters in the future, but I'm thankful that at least sometimes it seems Tobin is taking to heart our attempts to teach him the value of turning the other cheek.

The Celebration(s)

So how did we celebrate this milestone of a birthday? Appropriately, our celebration was extended, including three main parts. The first was Tobin's actual birthday, May 18. He woke up to his presents from us (Lightning McQueen remote control car and UNC basketball jersey) and the birthday cards others had sent. He went to school and then I let him pick where we went to lunch. He chose, in his very independent way, McDonald's because "I like their chicken better than Chick-fil-A's." (What???) For dinner, the four of us went to Chuck E. Cheese's, where both boys had pizza and played lots of games--and we parents remarked about how relatively cheap and surprisingly pleasant the whole experience was.

Celebration part two was the day after his birthday, which happened to be both the last day of school and our assigned assisting day. Matt took the day off and was the helper in Tobin's class. Tobin got to celebrate his birthday with his classmates, replete with birthday crown and cookies. Evan and I joined them later for the end-of-the-year picnic. It was really wonderful that we could spend the last day of school as a family. After school, while Evan napped, Tobin and Matt headed out to play some mini-golf, enjoying a fun Tobin-Daddy afternoon.

And then, on May 22, we had The Party. Recently, Tobin has been to some rather elaborate, large birthday parties of his classmates. We wanted to balance his expectations with our own desire to keep things simple. And truth be told, I think his expectations were pretty simple: he wanted to decorate the house, have some friends over and have a chocolate cake (with chocolate frosting and M&Ms and chocolate chips on top). So that's what we did. We had some of his school friends (all boys no less!) plus his good buddy Miles over. Our friend Mika, one of Matt's Riverside colleagues who teaches science, helped out by showing the kids some of her bug collection and teaching them how to make gak with glue and liquid starch. She also wowed them with the classic baking soda-vinegar reaction. After cake and ice cream, the boys spent the rest of the time playing T-ball or kickball or some derivative thereof in our yard. Although there were a few chaotic moments--completely unavoidable with eight four- and five-year-old boys running around our small home--overall the party was so much fun. And our boy had a blast, which of course was the most important objective of the day.

(We hope to post photographic evidence sometime soon.)


DMW said...

What a lovely post. Sniff, sniff.

Sewconsult said...

Great commentary on a great 5 yr old boy! Love the big birthday party. What goes together than boys, balls and bugs!
Thinking of you daily.
Aunt B.