Sometimes I forget my son is six. Not ten. Not sixteen. Six. Six is still little. Six is asking me what words mean, why the sun is hot, if his shoes are on the right feet. Six is squealing with joy over bubble gum.
As we brace for the start of our school year I realize I’ve been asking so much of him these last few months. I have been holding an invisible crown so far above his head, knowing that kids will try so hard to rise to our expectations, that sometimes I forget how far he is stretching. He’s sweet and kind and does what I ask of him so regularly that in those infrequent moments where he’s too loud or testy or stubborn — I’m disappointed that he’s acting, well, six.
He’s six and we’re home all the time and everything is weird and sometimes we have days where neither of us are our best selves. I worry out loud about the next few months and flinch because I know he’s listening. I end a lot of sentences with “we’ll see,” and “maybe.” There have been so many that end in “sorry, buddy, we can’t.” I skate between wanting to tell him everything, to prepare him for what may happen, and wanting to stay silent and positive and keep his spirits up. I still let him talk about Halloween as if it’s not next on the chopping block, because I’m trying to stay incredibly (naively) optimistic.
This summer wasn’t normal in a bunch of ways, but I do think about how it’s probably the only summer similar to the ones I grew with that he will ever have. He missed out on a lot of day trips and amusement park rides and community events that were staples of my childhood summers, but he got the wide brush strokes.
His days were fairly unscheduled. He bopped around the house, playing with his toys and making up games. He learned how to play Go Fish and Crazy Eights. He watched a fair amount of TV and ate roughly three meals a day and 50 snacks. He swam in the deep end of the pool with confidence and spent hours outside. Sometimes I’d catch him in his room, laying on his bed and listening to audiobooks or Kids Bop for hours. He did his chores, helped me cook, does arts and crafts, and generally just—played. He’s six. He’s only ever bored for a few minutes before he finds something else to do.
Next summer, hopefully, the world will return to some semblance of normal. I hope the world will be righted again, schools all in session and in-person, businesses booming. I hope I’ll be back in the office and he’ll be at summer camp with other kids and field trips and a daily schedule planned by the hour. I think a lot about what he’s missed this summer, what opportunities were extinguished, what routines we had forgone; but I also think about what we gained.
I have spent more time with him this summer than I ever have since he existed outside my body. I will probably never get to spend this much time with him again. This summer will have existed in a prism, a marbled collection of days unlike any others. I hope that when we look back on this summer we remember that in all the turmoil, there was also sweetness. I hope one day my son will remember this long, mom-filled summer as a good one. The summer he turned six.
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