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Happy is the son whose faith in his mother remains unchallenged. ~ Louisa May Alcott

Little boy, you remind me how so much depends on days made of now.” ~ From “Little Boy” by Alison McGhee

The Boy—my baby, my Monkey, my only living boy– is turning five soon. This child, this heart of mine is joyful, kind, smart, and sensitive. His eyes are not-quite-brown– sort of hazel-like. And the goofy smile that’s so picturesquely all his own is genuine and bright. When trying on a pair of adult-sized glasses, his precious face is remnant of that little boy from the movie Jerry Maguire. After seeing that movie for the first time, I remarked that if I ever had a boy, I’d want one just like him.

Funny how dreams can come true.

My boy is quirky, gifted, thoughtful, and sweet. Bright and inquisitive beyond his near-five years, he recently asked me what color eyes I thought God had. When I answered that I thought God probably had the most beautiful eyes anyone had ever seen, he smiled sentimentally and replied, “I bet they’re like rainbows!” Sigh. “What a great answer,” I told him. “I wish I had thought of that myself!”

~

Lately, he is fighting his way between age four and five. Days go by when he doesn’t give any thought to his wooden Thomas the Train set, rather begs for computer time instead. More than I’d like to admit, I have to usher The Boy to go play outside and stay outside. But, once he’s out there, I see the magic of Mother Nature take over his senses, helping his imagination soar like it never can when a roof remains overhead.  Out there among the green grass and canopy of trees he becomes braver in the sun.

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He’ll sing Christmas songs the whole year through, and prefers music with a funky or soulful beat. He aspires to play the ukulele. On his own, he practices twisting himself into a pretzel and does all sorts of other yoga poses just for the fun of it. Laughter is his beacon of hope—his natural way.

This incredible boy of mine can hardly wait until soccer starts in the fall. Thinking about his new team and playing again, he’ll show us all the tricks he learned with the soccer ball last year. Putt-putt golfing is a favorite pastime and he pathetically laments, “Oh, I wish I was golfing!” whenever we pass our local driving range. He will run and run and run and tell us that when he is older, he’ll run 100 miles, too–just like his dad, the marathoner.

A natural-born sharer and pleaser, he almost never picks a fight. He likes peace and harmony, laughter and hugs. Sounds can be too loud for his sensitive ears. When toys, books, and games are out of order—or his older sister’s room is a wreck–it upsets him to no end. When I interrupt his Lego play with, “Monkey, it’s time for lunch.” He always needs a few more minutes—not necessarily to finish building– but in order to put his Legos away in a deliberate, appropriate manner. This is my boy. He likes to think, organize, and smile.

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Five is a milestone. Five means The Boy is no longer a little person, but now in the collective world of “the bigger kids.” It means being asked, “Mom, can I ride my bike in the street with the bigger kids?”

Five means he’ll be able to attend our town’s Legos Bricks 4 Kidz event with his older sister one Friday night a month. Five means he rides a real bike and we will all go on a family bike ride together—for miles and miles without complaint. Five is a big deal.

Five is the ability to complete and understand first-grade-level work—already—and figuring out new things on his own. Five means that once school starts, he’ll no longer eat lunch at home with me and his baby sister, but in a cafeteria with his new classmates and teachers—unpacking his lunchbox on his own and finding someone to sit with each day. Five means he’ll start to lean on his friends now–more than on me. Five means his friends will start to be smarter than his silly old Mom.

Five means, “Mom, please don’t call me ‘Monkey’ in front of my friends.” Five means he is fighting me on clothing choices for Sunday Mass and has his first real opinions on what he likes and dislikes. Five means, “I can do it myself, Mom.” Five means I let him try to fail more on his own–give him the chance to try again and again without interfering with his process.

Five means there is a distance stringing between us and I’m holding on–firmly, desperately– to my end of the grip.

Five means he is becoming fearless more and fearsome less. Five means that last month on vacation he willingly sat atop a paddle board for the first time while his father and he rode together far out on Lake Michigan–way beyond the lighthouses. Five means he was peaceful on the calm Great Lake while I was a nervous wreck watching from the beach miles away. Five means he can’t wait to be out on the water once again, to get his own paddle board, a green kayak, or canoe.

Five is a threshold between his being a little boy and my watching him grow into a younger version of what he’ll be as a man.

Five means he falls asleep on his own at night after stories and prayers. Five means he wakes up in the morning and now forgets to hug me because he’s too busy playing under his bunk bed with dinosaurs, reading books to himself, or listening to his iPod shuffle. Five means the days we had together—just he and I–seem so far away and what remains are moments that feel ever so precious.

These days, I look intently on this child of mine and linger alongside the sweet sense of him. What I now see is a new boy emerging from where I once saw a baby’s face. (Wasn’t it just yesterday he slept soundly in my arms?) Afraid that if I don’t slow down long enough to catch more sideways glances of this endearing human being, I’ll miss all the distance that remains between his morphing from boy to man. I never knew such a tiny creature could fill me with such joy and break my heart all at once. I’ll continue to try not to take it all for granted.

~

Last night, after we had shared a story (that he insisted he could read on his own by sounding out all the words by himself), he allowed me to lead the prayers. And as his deep, hazel-like eyes blinked in a slow, sleepy motion—a telltale sign that he was close to sleep—this sweet boy of mine grabbed my hand in his and said, “I love you so much, Mommy.” As I blessed his forehead and laid a kiss upon his left cheek, he would not let go of my hand, so I stayed a little while longer just to be with him because he needed me to. And who am I kidding? My heart needed to stay, as well.

Who knows how much longer he’ll care if I put him to bed or not? Who knows how much longer he’ll want to share silly stories and songs together? Who knows how much longer it will be before he no longer misses me while at school all day long? Who knows? All I know is that this one—this only boy of mine—has captured my heart in a tremendous, profound way. No matter what, he’ll always be my baby boy, my Monkey–mine.

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