I wasn't going to be a teacher. I was in the middle of getting my Master's Degree in Teaching...but I wasn't going to teach. After graduation, I was going to move to San Francisco and LIVE. Before I could toss my cap, though, I needed to complete my Student Teaching placements.
Fate intervened: I was placed in a kindergarten classroom (with, I'm sure of it, the World's Best Kindergarten Teacher) FULL of five-year olds.
And I Fell. In. Love.
There is something about Five...old enough for independence, young enough for wonder and curiosity. Funny, intuitive, and dead honest, they can carry on thoughtful, intelligent conversations while, in the next breath, they kill it with Potty Humor. Five year olds flaunt themselves...they're big enough to know to be proud of what they know and can do, and too little to be concerned with appearing egotistical. They are confident, yet wide open as they are just starting to figure out how much more there is to know.
I love kindergartners. So much, in fact, that I changed my post-grad plans and became a kindergarten teacher (after one year spent in second grade and, for the record, I love seven year olds, too).
And then I became a mom. And blinked once...maybe twice. And this happened...
My first baby. My Biggest Boy. He's Five.
And even though he's just-this-moment an official five year old, he is every bit of Awesome that is Being Five.
This kid is Funny. With a Capital F. And not just wacky...although he is that...
...but funny in the intentional joke-telling way (he and Max each need to tell Sam a joke at the door before he can leave in the morning), and also funny in the He's Just Evan way. Sitting at the dinner table, he'll say, "You know what, Daddy? A giant squid has the biggest eye of any other creature in the ocean," while opening his own eyes as wide as they can open, an inch from Sam's face.
But he's always been funny. He's always had a keen way of cracking his mama up. Something new? It's this...
Evan draws. He brings pictures home from school to hang on our fridge and, reportedly, gives drawings to his teachers at Center Time. I love this. I love that he's finally gaining the confidence (and manual dexterity) to put pen to paper and Create...but I'm also loving What he's drawing. That picture above? I found it in his Mailbox after school. "Wow, buddy," I said to him as we walked to the van, "That's a lot of happy faces!" "Yup," he said, skipping ahead, "It was a Lot of Happy Day." THAT, I love.
Today he drew a picture that depicted the following scene: An alien flies to outer space, heading towards Jupiter. On the way, he sees dinosaurs in outer space. But they're not just ANY dinosaurs, they're dinosaurs WITH JET PACKS! In 20 years, they will be extinct, but after 13 days, they'll come back because they weren't extinct after all! They were HIBERNATING! And they'll land on Jupiter, too, because that will be the Planet of the Dinosaurs.
I love that he's finally willing and able to let me in for a peek of that descriptive and imaginative brain of his.
I can't get enough of What This Kid Knows. He's always been an Information Kid...preferring reading books and Talking to running around and Doing (although his gross motor skills and confidence have skyrocketed this year...). His interests have changed over time...from trucks, to dinosaurs, to animals and nature and it's been a progression of maturation. At first, he liked big, loud things that moved and worked. Then, he moved on to big, loud creatures that seem mystical and imaginary. And from there, to present day reality...he loves learning Creature Facts and, with knowledge of the fact that some of his favorite creatures are facing extinction, he jumps into the role of Nature Conservationist. "I'll be a World Policeman, Mom, and I'll take those poachers to jail until they learn their lesson and stop poaching those Black Rhinos!"
There's no denying this kid's compassion. For animals, and, mostly, for his Two Best Loves: Max...
World's Best Big Brother. (Until he's playing too rough, yelling, or demanding that everyone play His Way...but mostly, The Best.) Now that Max is a willing and able play participant, the two are inseparable. My favorite time is in the morning when I'm either busy in the kitchen or "busy" and I get to spy on the two of them playing together. I'll often just re-wipe the kitchen counter or organize my already-organized junk drawer to buy myself a few more minutes of listening to them... They have this weird sixth sense, though; right as I'm tossing the last paper towel in the trash, they know I'm free and they immediately start insisting that I grab a truck or a "guy" and join the game.
During Quiet Time, Evan has the choice to read books, play computer games, or play quietly on his own. He always spends some time on pbskids.com (Wild Kratts, of course), but if I'm nursing Molly or holding her while she sleeps, he turns it off. He rounds up his Favorite Buddy of the Day (Snowy the Snow Leopard, Beary the Bear, or, lately Bun Bun the Bunny--he's getting less and less creative with names...remember Training Pants the Goldfish?) and comes over for some "Baby Snuggles." (He only thinks he's the one snuggling the baby....really, I'm savoring my fewer and farther between Evan Snuggles....)
Evan, my Love. You're growing up. You're getting so good at solving your own problems...like, the other morning, when we were running late: "I know, Mom! I'll put on my own coat! That'll save you some time!" Um. Yeah. Or maybe you'll put on your own coat because YOU'RE FIVE. But, yes. Thank you for your help. And you're working really hard to Not Sweat the Small Stuff...we don't have to fix your socks a hundred times a day and nighttimes are, dare I say, nearly uninterrupted. When Max starts his Potty Talk routine at the dinner table, you say, under furrowed brow with a half-hidden smile, "I'm not laughing, Max, that's not appropriate."
I love how you make a request, but then amend it with an, "...ack-uh-gee, I'll have the..."
I love how you do your "Fast Run" (which is neither fast, nor a run) around the kitchen...bent down low, elbows pumping, feet shuffling, tiny little butt wiggling, eyes closed to slits, and with the hugest smile on your face.
I love how you call big trucks, and fat caterpillars, Ginormous. I don't know where you learned that word.
I love how, when you hit your first ever Hole-in-One while playing putt putt the other day...
...you looked at me like I was embarrassing you with my shrieking and congratulating you....I love that you made that shot, I love that you didn't seem to get what the big deal was, and I love that you're almost old enough to be embarrassed by your Mom. (I won't stop shrieking in delight of your accomplishments though, so you'd better get used to it.)
I love how you share some important moments from your school day with me...and I also love how you keep some to yourself...a world of your own, which you let us into....
I love how you wave to the big kids in the neighborhood while they play basketball next door. You keep waving and saying "Hi!" until they acknowledge you, then you turn to me and say, with pride bursting out of you, "I said hi to the big kids and they said hi to me, too!"
I love how your favorite playmates are the kids you live with...but you're starting to branch out and have Real Friends, too.
I love that you taught me what an Electric Torpedo Ray is. (It's a ray fish that hides on the bottom of the ocean and can zap you if you step on it. It gives warning zaps first to tell you to "Watch out!" but if you don't, you're going to be sorry!.....for those of you who didn't already know...)
I love how your teachers have gotten to know You....your silly side, your serious side, your playful side, your smart side...and I love how much they obviously love you....and that the feeling is mutual.
I love how you're big enough to call me just plain "Mom" and to write "I love you" notes (with pen and paper, on our easel, in chalk on the driveway...) to the members of our family....but you're still little enough to request zip-up, footie jammies at bedtime.
I love Everything. EVERYthing about you.
On Thursday night, I was tucking him in to bed. "Sweet dreams, baby," I said, "and get a good night's sleep because tomorrow is your last day of being four! On Saturday, you'll be FIVE years old!!"
Evan burst into tears. "I'm just going to miss being four! And all of my friends! I'm going to miss my four-year old preschool and all of my preschool friends!" I reassured him that nothing, really, will change on Saturday. "You'll still be your same classroom with your same friends all the way until the end of the school year. The only thing that will be different is that, when someone asks you how old you are, you get to show your Whole Hand."
"Okay," [sob, sob] "I just really like being four." I looked down at him then and, even though he's been seeming so Big to me lately, I saw how little he still is. His eyes glistened with tears and he snuggled his three Easter buddies (the bunny named Bun Bun and two stuffed Peeps, which he was too sad to say goodbye to when we packed up the rest of the Easter decorations). This is a Moment....he's about to be Big for real: he's headed to kindergarten. On a bus (hopefully). At the Big School. I want to savor this spring and summer....the last moments of pre-school Little-ness.
But, as little as he may think he wants to stay, I knew how to win him over:
"Great things happen when you're five, though, you know..." I said. "You'll start to learn how to read when you're five...you'll learn about addition and subtraction...AND..." I paused to let the suspense build.
"What else? What else happens?"
"...Well, this Just Might be the year that you learn how to whistle."
Sold. We're all on board to turn five. It's going to be a great year.