Age 5 Is Both Wonderful And Terrible

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 

My baby is no longer a baby. He’s five years old: not a toddler, not a big kid. On the cusp of something. He hovers always in that liminal space between baby and boy. He is soft lisps and loud yells, a Minnie-Mouse voice reading words. Five is, above all, a between age: for children, for parents. I love five and I hate five. I long for five and I dread five. I treasure it and I can’t wait for it to pass, and when it passes I’m relieved and I mourn.

Five is everything.

Five is tears.

To quote T.S. Eliot, Five is Prince Hamlet, and was meant to be/ An attendant lord, one that will do/ To start a progress, swell a scene of two … And by “lord” I mean “Lord of the Flies” and by “scene” I mean “weeping, crying, massive throw-down.” Because everything, at five, makes you cry. Five is the Age of Tears. Can’t find a shoe? Copious weeping. Don’t want to go to the pool because you’d rather watch Ninjago? Tears. Don’t want a PB&J because you’d rather have a Clif Bar? The siren song of your people, AKA crying.

Five has so many emotions, and all those emotions seem best expressed by crying. All you can do is cuddle and wait for the storm to pass, if you’re patient. I am seldom gifted with patience. I usually sigh and drop my head in my hands and try to remember that the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon but dammit, kid, will you please stop weeping because you spilled your Gatorade?

Five is a big kid… but not.

Being a 5-year-old means you are entitled to all things big kid, but you also need all things little kid. You want to go to the movies and see the latest “Godzilla” movie with your 9-year-old brother (or you will cry, see above), but you will demand to sit in mama’s lap the whole time. You want a boogie board at the beach (or you will cry), but you will not use it and would rather dig in the sand. You want Star Wars action figures you don’t play with and sleep with your stuffies.

Being a 5-year-old means you want to grow up so much, but you still need to be a baby.

Five means the rules don’t apply.

When you are five, the rules are the rules. They are ironclad. They mean everything. They are order and sanity and beat back the chaos that it modern life. If you see someone breaking the rules, you must immediately inform an adult. If someone is accused of breaking the rules when you are five, you must immediately clarify that you, personally, were not breaking said rule.

“Blaise,” I’ll say to my 9-year-old. “Stop making your cheese into a weird crushed ball before you eat it.” “I wasn’t doing that!” 5-year-old Simon will proclaim. Uh-huh. Because I was clearly speaking to you, kid.

However: those rules do not apply to you. You, dear 5-year-old, may leave your shoes in the middle of the floor. You, darling five, may hit and kick your brother, then say that he started it. You may whine and cry for what you want, though whining and crying for what you want is strictly prohibited. You may tattle. You may leave your toys out. You may be what D&D calls Chaotic Neutral: You seek to eliminate all order in society and strive for freedom from all rules. Think wearing the same underwear three days in a row, then going outside in it.

Five is all the TV.

By now, you have been stuck on the same television for so long that your parents say things like, “Oh, they introduce Everest in so-and-so season of Paw Patrol.” You love the same TV you’ve loved since you were tiny. Sesame Street still holds appeal. In our house, Scooby Doo reigns supreme.

But your 5-year-old also ventures into new territory. Everything is awesome, especially the Lego Movie and Ninjago. You start to move into big kid cartoons, which in our house means Rocko’s Modern Life and Odd Squad and Bugs Bunny and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Five means being hangry all the damn time.

Five is always growing. This means that you can’t be awesome all of the time, because your 5-year-old is starving all of the time. Parents of 5-year-olds know they damn well better carry snacks. Never, ever put a 5-year-old in a room and tell him that if he presses a button, a human being will die, but he’ll get a bucket of popcorn. He will pick the popcorn every fucking time.

If you do not feed a 5-year-old when he demands it (which is all of the time), he will throw a scene to end all scenes (see above). The crying will increase in volume and frequency. However, she will also do things like arbitrarily decide he hates cheese, or pizza, or other things that he snarfed down two days ago. Or your 5-year-old will decide to inform you, after he’s left the house, that he never ate breakfast.

Hence the snacks.

Five is big and little all at once.

He can read some. He can draw some. But he cries when he leaves his stuffie, Niffler, at home. He can listen to you, but he chooses not to. He is delightful and annoying, cuddly and sulky, wonderful and terrible, a force of nature. Five is everything. It’s is the last of your baby years, the first of your big kid years.

Love it while you can.

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