Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Long Time Ago, When I Was Five

That's how my son started a conversation with me a few weeks ago.  "Mom, do you remember a long time ago when I was five, and we took that vacation to Mississippi?" You mean, last June?  Just a mere 13 months ago?  Yes, I remember it.

I guess when you're young, last summer does seem like a long time ago.

Today, this child who was five a long time ago turned seven.  Funny, but to this mommy, five doesn't seem so long ago.  Neither does four, or three, or two, or one.  It seems like not very long ago at all that I brought that chunky little baby boy into this world.

I've spent the last few days reminiscing about the early years with our Munchkin, and trying to understand how seven years have flown by so very fast.  It's got me misty eyed and shaking my head in amazement.  I think about all we've gone through with this child, and all the joy he has brought us, and I just can't believe seven years are gone already.  Maybe it's because he's my baby, because I know I'll never again live the infant and toddler and preschool years with my own child again.  Maybe it's looking at him and still seeing his baby face in that big boy staring back at me.  Maybe it's the knowing that my little man will continue to grow up and grow older, and will start to smell like a big boy instead of that sweet little baby.  He'll start to avoid kisses and hugs from his mom when his friends are around.  Maybe it's fear that my baby won't be my baby anymore.  But this birthday is hitting me hard.

Munchkin told me last week that I could give away his Thomas stuff.  He said, "Mom, I don't need those tracks anymore, or the buildings either. You can give them to some little kid.  I'm too big for them now."

So I sat in his room yesterday sorting through his toy boxes, putting all the wooden tracks in one pile and all the gray tracks in another.  Finding which pieces go with which building sets, and locating all the blocks for the Thomas Lego set.  In the midst of wondering if I could get a good price for these if I sell them, or if I knew anyone who would love them as much as Munchkin did, I found myself looking at the faces on these trains and crying.

And yes, I felt a little foolish.  I mean, they're just toys!  And yet, these Thomas toys mark the end of an era in his young life.  Thomas dominated his play, his decor, his clothing, and his thinking for many, many years.  I found myself lining up the trains as Munchkin used to do, all the faces looking out and lined up on an imaginary, perfectly straight line, remembering the hours he would spend doing this.  I remembered his evaluation, where they asked us if he had any obsessions, and my husband and I looked at each other and shrugged, "Not really."  The doctor expressed surprise at that, and I said, "Well, he really likes Thomas.  That's all he'll play with or watch on TV."  As she asked us more, she looked at us and said, "That's what we call an obsession."  It was our first clue that something bigger than we had let ourselves imagine might be wrong with our child.

And I continued to remember...Thomas was also the toy we used to teach Munchkin how to play with others.  It was the thing that allowed us to enter his world.  Thomas taught him so much language and vocabulary, and, even though his first conversations were scripted straight from his beloved videos, they were still conversations and paved the way for further language development, which in turn led to better eye contact, which developed relationships with others outside the family.  We all spent countless hours in Munchkin's room, entering his world through a maze of tracks and bridges and tunnels and catastrophes (there were always catastrophes in Thomas!).  As much as Munchkin learned through playing with these toys, we learned even more about his unique mind and creative spirit as we played with him.

So, yeah, his beloved Thomas is also treasured by me.  Is it any wonder the simple act of packing up these toys brought so much emotion to the surface?

Thomas has been replaced by other obsessions, mainly Angry Birds.  And Munchkin has learned how to carry on a conversation with another person.  He's learned to make eye contact, and he is getting better everyday at sharing toys and taking turns with others and following rules and allowing others to dictate the play on occasion.  His new obsessions definitely play a role in this learning, just like Thomas did for so long.  And, as with Thomas, we all take turns playing with his Angry Bird toys.  They now provide that glimpse into his developing brain that Thomas did for us before.  And they allow us to enter his more sophisticated, more "grown-up" world.

But Thomas will forever remind me of the little boy he was a long time ago, when he was five.  As I placed most of the trains aside to give away or sell, I stuck a box of wooden trains and tracks in the closet.  I find myself unable to part with them yet, even if he is ready to let them go.

Happy Birthday, Big Boy.  Your Momma loves you intensely--the precious memories of who you were not that long ago, the absolutely remarkable child you are as you turn seven, and the glimpses we get everyday of the amazing young man you are soon going to be.