Ryder jumping in leavesMy son has spent the last four days turning five. It was a long weekend of celebrations that started on Saturday and ended today with his birthday snack day at preschool. Throw in a kids bowling party, a family party, and a dinner out complete with a Birthday Wheel spin and that is quite a way to bid farewell to 4. 


Like his mother, Ryder is a sensitive soul. And although he wants enjoy all of the spoils of a birthday, he’s had Peter Pan syndrome since he was 2, desperately hoping to avoid the part where you grow up. “I don’t want to be a man and get bigger,” he says. He worries about these things during the days leading up to his birthdays,at times becoming almost melancholy, so much so that he would not allow me to declare him as five-years-old until the exact time of his birth. (9:02 p.m., to be exact)


It was hard for me to understand where he was coming from. I hustled around cleaning the house, a thousand thoughts in my head of what needed to get done for the birthday parties, shaking my head at the silliness of worrying about turning five.


On the evening of his birthday, I (started to) put the boys to bed around 8:40 p.m. 


I read our usual book. His younger brother drifted off. As I held Ryder’s hand, he quietly asked if I would stay with him until he fell asleep. 


“Of course.”


And in those last few quiet minutes of being four, all that he had been feeling those last few days suddenly crept up on me and slammed into my brain like a freight train. When the hustle and bustle of parties, dinners, doughnut runs, cake pick-ups, present wrapping, and coordinating finally died down to a hush, all that remained in that moment was a boy and his mother in the quiet, still night, his tiny little hand in mine, his breath notably shifting from rambunctious boy energy to peaceful slumber. 


We were about to cross the threshold from his baby years into his elementary school years. My first baby, my first toddler, my first preschooler was growing up. And as joyful as I am that he has a beautiful life to live, it is equally painful to know that those years are over for him, for me, for us.


He had spent the last few days trying to get me to join him in thoughtfully remembering our past, our present, and our future, and I brushed it off as childish silliness.


He was now asleep. I started to leave the room, big balloon tears rolling down my cheeks.


He suddenly startled. “Where are you going, mama?”


I closed the door and made my way back to his bedside, placing my hand back into his outreached little palm. He smiled in the dark, eyes closed; much needed peace and contentment finally washing over his face.


I smiled with him. I let myself feel our past, our present, and our future, all in that moment. I looked back with him, I felt gratitude with him for the wonderful life we have, and I looked forward to our family’s future together.


I felt a slight shudder from him. He was finally asleep. As I let go of his hand and separated from him on the night of his 5th birthday, I glanced down at my watch.


9:02 p.m., to be exact.