Makes Me Sigh, Snips And Snails

The Confliction Of Five

As of late, Sean has been trying to convince me that he is over being a baby, that being a baby is so yesterday, that he has moved on, that he has joined the ranks of the big boys.

But like a politician, his actions don’t always line up with his words.

The other day as we were leaving the house for a play date, he ran back to his bedroom and grabbed Mr. Monkey to take with him in the car. As we are walking towards the garage, I notice his grimy little boy fingers, set to automatic, busily working and petting Mr. Monkey’s muzzle.  Mr. Monkey used to have a nose and a mouth. But they have long since been loved off.

His fingers are long and delicate and even pretty.  I remember how I marveled at them, the first time I saw them, how fragile and breakable they felt in my hand, how they moved as though powered by batteries. I was fascinated by his fingernails, miniature and as fine as tissue paper.  The thought of trimming those itty bitty fingernails terrified me.

I still marvel at those fingers although now they are scraped up and have a good amount of dirt under the nails which need to be trimmed.  Even so, they are still long and delicate, and even pretty.

As we walked towards the car, I watched him out of the corner of my eye, his fingers methodically twitching over Mr. Monkey’s muzzle. I wondered if he was feeling anxious about the play date.  Then he turned to me and said, “Mom, I don’t care for cartoons anymore. Those are for babies. I prefer real shows with real people, like The Food Network and Survivor Man.”

“Oh really?” I said more than asked.

I was struck by the composition, the stark contrast between the boy clutching Mr. Monkey and the same boy telling me he has moved beyond childish cartoons.

He is conflicted.  He is a boy wobbling and balancing on a high wire between two worlds.  On one side of the wire is a soft and sweet and safe place, where all the anxiety and ills of life can be soothed by a fraying and well loved monkey. On the other side is a not safe and not soft world that calls to him to come taste new and exciting things.  And he is conflicted. He wants to live in both worlds.

I’m conflicted. I want him to live in both worlds.  And daily we swing wildly between the two.

29 thoughts on “The Confliction Of Five

  1. Beautiful!

    I feel the same about my 14 year old daughter. At times, she seems ready to bound out into the grown up world all alone and then she’ll turn around and wonder aloud why her gymnastics coach didn’t give her a prize out of the treasure chest like the other kids got… “not that I wanted one,” she adds.

  2. I started at that age to let him know that no matter how big/old he gets and no matter what he does he will always be my baby and sorry he will probably be called one.
    Yes, Sean is beautiful and there is so much more to come. Enjoy!

  3. LOVE your writing and have linked to your blog on my website.

    My son is about to leave for his junior year in college and I’m in that wobbly inbetween place of, “Hold on, let him go, hold on, let him go . . .”

    Sigh. It never gets easier.

    I think I need my OWN little soothing monkey. 🙂

  4. And it happens all over again during preteen years. Mine is twelve and often he watches cartoons and plays silly kid games. And then he feels he needs to put on his big kid face. His big kid suit with a little kid inside.

    It’s hard to know the balance, which way to lean.

  5. A child’s happiest moments are the years before six or seven. Also, I think a parent’s most memorable years are the same ones. You just want to keep them at that age, love them, protect them, and play with them. I think both the child and the parents wobble and balance between this wonderful time and looking forward to see what remarkable adults their children become. Marviv

  6. I’m sure it works fine – so long as you co-ordinate your swings between the two, and are in the same world at the same time.

    * * *
    Unfortunately no. Oft times I want him to do something for himself, like brush his teeth, and he wants me do it for him. And other times I want to hold him and cuddle him and count his toes again and he wants to run away. Sigh. ~AM

  7. Can I pleeeeeease borrow your son for just a few days, to help my five-year-old see how nice it is to progress toward being bigger and older and more grown-up? Mine just relishes his little-ness. He insists he’s not getting any older, even with photographic proof right in front of him.

  8. I think you have beautifully captured the tension of 5. My almost 6 yo has declared Dora “for babies”. I can’t believe the era of Dora is over!! But she is still so little in so many ways. They just can’t wait to get “big”.

  9. This is such a beautiful picture of growing up. I’ve felt that same tension in middle school with my girls. My youngest is entering m.s. in a couple of weeks and is struggling just a bit between playing “cheesy” games and pre-teen hanging out. It’s interesting and a little sad to watch.

  10. my 13 year old finally let go of all his stuffed animals in the bed…even his 13 year old barney…i shed a few tears even though he is definitely too old for these things

  11. I don’t think it matters what age they are, they are always conflicted between the safe place and the new exciting place. I know at 40 I still feel conflicted.

  12. My eight-year-old is the same way… caught between being a big boy and a little guy. One minute he is off shooting his BB gun, the next he is frantically digging in his bed looking for his blankie.

  13. Oh I so hear you on the conflict that is five. My son will be six in October and he thinks he is so big, that everything is for babies. Yet when we went on vacation last week he insisted on flying with his stuffed dog. He walked through the airport pulling is own bag and clutching that stuffed dog. It just made me smile.

  14. I have a deep and abiding relationship with each of my children. My daughter was my first and therefore has that special place, but my boy–much like your Sean–breaks my heart completely on a nearly daily basis.

  15. Oh, AM I completely understand. I look at my almost Kindergartener (14 days from today – but who’s counting?) and I see a little man some days. But then he’s crawling into bed with us or snuggling up for another book and he’s my little guy again. I so treasure these times. Yesterday we went to a local theme park and he won a Scooby Doo stuffed toy at a carnival game (the same game he was bugging his dad all day long to play). He took the toy after some high fives from everyone around and promptly handed it over to his 2 1/2 year old sister. And he loves Scooby Doo. I had tears in my eyes at the kindness and empathy he shows at such a small age. He very much considers himself the guardian over his little sister and is constantly on the lookout for her behalf. Such responsibilities these 5 year olds take on sometimes. I am so dreading leaving him this first day of school. Even after years of daycare, and more recently, pre-K – I know he’ll be fine. It’s me I’m not so sure about.

  16. My nearly 5 year old red hair has a “blankie-star” who is his constant companion in the house. In particular it is the label he loves, and it is now so thread bare that one of these days it will be “loved” away.

  17. Right there with you, and I just started a book “The Definitive Book Of Body Language” by Allan and Barbara Pease – hoping it’ll help me decipher some of the mysteries 😉

  18. I remember that time and transition. We saw it again in our son, Jackson, at age 9. He still wanted to play with little kid toys, but is attracted to the tween tv shows, toys, etc. It is interesting to watch, but sometimes maddening.

  19. It still amazes me when I look upon my oldest and think about all the changes he has made both physically and mentally. Around six months ago or so he started fussing with his younger brothers over which cartoons to watch–he not wanting to watch them, but rather real people shows like ICarly and Drake and Josh. It is sad in one way, and yet liberating in another.

  20. I am conflicted, too. I think it’s a lifelong condition: we just keep finding newer versions of cartoons and Mr. Monkey, always seeking the right balance.

  21. That is the beauty of being a kid. You can go back and forth between younger and older and get away with it!

    Actually I think that continues pretty much all throughout our life!

  22. Makes me want to bottle Anja up and never let her get any older…’cept I’m ready to be done with the diapers. Oh, and the tantrums. Okay, I guess she will be allowed to move on with life.

  23. What a completely perfect post!

    The day my son gave up his blankie – still makes me sad. And it was over 2 years ago now. I keep it in his closet and every once in a while I look at it. And say, “Look Coleman, remember your biddy?”

    And he says, “My what?”

    Waah!

  24. My two girls are very different. My oldest daughter (now 19) was always outgoing and independent and seemed to grow up so fast. She had no problem giving up her favorite toys and moving on into each new phase in her life. She has never been afraid to try new things.

    My younger daughter (age 14) has had more difficulty with that, and refuses to part with any of her old toys, even though she has not played with them for years. She just likes knowing they are all still here. She doesn’t adapt well to change and timidly approaches each new phase in her life.

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