I’ve always liked birthdays. My mom used to throw the best, homemade birthday parties and I love doing the same for my own children. Sure, I feel a twinge of bittersweet, happy-sadness on the kid’s birthdays, but mostly I am just content to see how happy they are at being the center of attention for the day. Birthdays are great; it’s the milestones that make me cry.
Thomas turned six this past summer and following in my mother’s footsteps we threw him what has become the typical Mendolo-style party at home. I cupcakes fashioned into a snake, complete with forked licorice tongue. Homemade paper chains festooned the doorways. Little eyes and legs were hot glued onto individually wrapped chocolates to create “chocolate lizards”. And much fun was had playing “pin the tail on the rattlesnake” and going on a “reptile hunt” (scavenger hunt). It was a low-key birthday and I somehow didn’t expect Thomas’ sixth year to be all that big of a deal.
I should have known that a major developmental leap was brewing a few weeks ago when on one night Thomas devoured half an order of mozzarella cheese sticks, about a third of a large pizza, and then complaining of hunger pains before bedtime went on to polish off two apples. As an aside, I can only imagine the massive amounts of food we are going to be going though in about a decade with two teenaged boys and one nearly teenaged girl in our house. I mostly look forward to kids eating me out of house and home. Finally, I will have an excuse to bake the couple dozen cookies and half a dozen loaves of bread each day that I want to! Returning to the present, I should have known that the cheese sticks were merely the appetizers for the growth spurt that was to come.
The weekend after Thomas started eating like a teenager, Jeff decided it was time to teach Thomas how to ride a two-wheeled bicycle without training wheels. Perhaps recalling that I had been seven years old before I had learned to ride such a bike, I expected that it would take Thomas weeks to learn; days at the very least. Less than two hours after Jeff set out to teach Thomas how to ride I moseyed outside to say “Hi” only to see Thomas zoom, with only a slight wobble, down the sidewalk on nothing but two little wheels. Thomas’ body was not to be satisfied by merely riding a bike, however. The next weekend he lost his first tooth. The weekend after that; another tooth and an announcement that he thought he was now ready for chapter books. With that proclamation I handed Thomas a set of “Magic Treehouse” books I had snagged at the library sale and he proceeded to sit down and read.
It’s impossible not to be happy for him.; he is so proud of his new skills. He zooms towards us on his bike in camera phone movies proclaiming “I am a super-good peddler!” He gleefully whispers to me that he knows I am the tooth fairy (actually, Jeff has been the one on fairy duty). He asks for more chapter books and asks if he can read “Harry Potter” yet. I just wish life could slow down a little; I miss those days of sitting on the couch and simply nursing through growth spurts. Maybe we could put the training wheels back on? I am still a bit wobbly at parenting a big kid; I am pretty sure I am going to crash a few times and I don’t have a helmet.
That doesn’t seem possible though. Thomas’ new ability to ride a bike earned him a new, bigger and faster bike. This past weekend we took it out and he rode loops around our little street with me trailing behind him. I couldn’t keep up with him. He’s simply too fast. All I can do is walk behind him, cheer, and help him up if he falls.