Annie to her music box, as she pulls the string, “Alexa! Turn on Let It Go.”
To Paul, this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 9 months old.
You sleep hard straight through the green light, until Annie, intent on pancakes and finished with her own list, comes back to wake you up and help you with yours. You give a big yawn and allow pants and a toothbrushing. I make the pancakes, and you and Annie drop four chocolate chips on each of them in the pan. You eat and offer pointers to Annie, around a mouthful of strawberries, as she does a Kindergarten assessment.
While she finishes up, you make your own pancakes in the toy kitchen and launch a food delivery service. You bring me corn and kale, then announce, “Well, the delivery man has to go poop,” and do so. Annie joins your small business for a spell, then it’s time to go.
We load up and I drive you to school. I think you look quite dashing in your blue and lime green shirt with matching mask, and you give me a hug and tell me you love me before the teacher takes your temperature and lets you in.
Dad picks you up and announces Home Slice pizza for dinner, which you’re very excited about. Slices of cheese all around, and into the tub, with your race cars. Then everyone hops into bed—race cars too—for a couple episodes of Nature Cat, sneakily teaching you about the sources of streams and where they flow. Your cars turn into a rocket ship. We snuggle.
Bedtime. No one is interested in a picture book, just Harry Potter immediately. Dad reads for half an hour about mandrakes in Herbology class, then says goodnight. I take first watch, listening to you talking quietly and the gentle click of legos. When it’s still going on at 8, I enter to check on you. You are in bed; Annie is on the floor; and a forest of lego structures populates the space between you. You tell me calmly you have decided to use every lego in the drawer to build things for Daddy, and indeed you seem about 95% of the way there. I tell you you have two minutes to finish, and then where should you be? “In bed.” I come back two minutes later, and that’s where you both are.
To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 1 month old.
You roll in right on time, in a silly mood all day after your weekend cold. It’s blueberry waffles and pineapple for breakfast, with a side of mango yogurt pouch. Hello, fruit flavors. You consent to a hair-brushing and goof your way through a kindergarten lesson where you sort letters into spanish words.
At school, you and a fire-line of tiny children help carry in the 30 bananas, 16 pounds of strawberries, and the rest of the trunkful of snacks for the week of school. When you realize you’ve left your backpack full of sunglasses in the car, you drop your bunch of bananas on the ground and head back for it directly. Gotta admire your single-mindedness.
You won’t tell us much about the school day, but Paul comes home covered head-to-toe in blue paint, so must have been fun. You bound in at 5 hungry for dinner and still full of sillyness. When Dad claims to know a few words of French, you ask him how to say ten, and then notice its similarity to ten in Spanish, and we have a pretty interesting conversation about the relationship between the languages. Paul keeps it rolling with such thought-provokers as, “What if I tried to gargle the Earth?”
You ask to be excused and for permission to get a cup of milk and a bowl, which you take outside so you can pretend to be a cat drinking it. We join you there in a few, and you assist with emptying the wading pool. When Paul’s blue-painted skin begins melting into the deck, we decide its bathtime, and you two have a good soak.
It’s early yet! We finish up with an episode of the new PBS show “Donkey Hodie” (get it?). It includes wholesome lessons and songs (“Step One: Practice. Step Two: Practice some more! Step Three: Practice.”) There’s also a purple panda. You seem to like it.
As sometimes happens at night, your energy level escalates, and you opt for wrestling and sommersaults over book-reading. When it’s time for the last story, you hop into bed agreeable enough, looking forward to your current-favorite Harry Potter. Paul’s riled up, too, though, and can’t stay quiet for the story, so I bow out with regrets and a little light finger-wagging.
You go off the deep end, screaming and wailing for, let’s see, 20 minutes now…30…50—it’s hard to count, or think actually. Remembering Paul’s recent reprimand for spilling water and leaving it to soak into the floor for hours, you start pouring water randomly around the room. Dad sops it up. You continue to wail. It’s a stand-off. We will not be moved.
The kids are in the bathtub, and Annie is teaching Paul how to gargle.
To Paul, this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 8 months old.
You pop up this morning raring to go, clad in a girls-fit Halloween shirt with sequined jack’o’lantern and your standard track pants. You claim to have brushed your teeth—questionable—but we elect to take your word. Downstairs you and Annie launch a play world, but agree to pause for a waffle and yogurt. While Annie does kindergarten work, you and Dad make paper airplanes.
Dad drops you at school. You’ve brought the airplanes: one for you and one for friend Shae. At 9:15 Annie joins you after her annual check-up, and at lunch you are dismayed to discover it’s the sandwich which used to be the only thing you liked so we ordered them forever and now you hate them. Ah, life. You’re engaged in some sort of circle game at pick-up.
Home, you bustle in and are delighted to find blackberries on your dinner tray. You trade me five peas for one of mine, and save one tiny seed to plant so we’ll always have plenty. (We do not, alas, actually plant the seed.) Annie invites you to the bathroom to tell you a secret, which pleases you. You finish the fruit parts of dinner and ask to be excused.
It’s time to jump on the couch, which you haven’t done in so long I’d hoped you’d forgotten about it. And of course you need the White Stripes, “side D.” Annie finds some of Dad’s rejected neck gaiters in the give-away pile, and these become costume pieces. You rock out.
Couch jumping evolves into obstacle-course building, which you two collaborate on and lay in a track all the way to the downstairs closet. There you create a nest we will later discover to be a disaster, but keeps you happily entertained for at least 20 minutes. Overheard: “Now I need a TRILLION pillows!!” You emerge and decide it’s time for an airplane ride on my feet, and carefully position me so that, without any risk to my person, you can pretend to knock me backwards from sitting and then launch into the air. “No tickles but high,” you specify. Yes, sir.
Unfortunately, during the nest-build Annie cuts her foot on something, and screams in fear of the blood. We manage to get it bandaged, and you get in on the post-war-wound soothing video, an episode of Nature Cat via Dad’s phone. Then it’s upstairs. You brush your teeth, really this time, and make it clear you’d much rather be playing with your cars and helicopter than listen to stories. Dad lets you take them into bed while I read and you ignore The Great Kettles. You stay reasonably near bed, though, for the story and then afterwards. You flip through a book about the planets and ask me which planets have rings, and how do they get rings, and could the Earth have rings, which causes me to talk about the moon exploding, and then Annie to ask whether the Earth could explode. “No,” I say firmly, then, “Okay, goodnight, I love you!”
I see you again at 8:45. Annie has accidentally awoken you with some elaborate plans to act as the toothfairy and leave you treats under your pillow. (This is the secret she was telling you earlier.) I soothe you back to bed…and assist her with execution at 9:30.
To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years old.
You sleep well and wake up on time, happy it’s your birthday and eager to understand the present-opening schedule. We take care of the basics and head downstairs. You select your first gift: an electric toothbrush with built-in cup and timer, and a unicorn cap. You’re thrilled, having reminded me just yesterday that you wanted an electric toothbrush for your birthday.
We measure your height against the wall, and you and Paul nibble on breakfast and use your new appliances as tools for all sorts of experiments. At 8, I have a specific gift for you to open: analog wrist watches! Even MORE thrilling! Yours comes with a map of specific places and times at which we have scheduled suprises for the morning. (“I know what surprises mean: you can’t tell me.”) The first is coming up, and at 8:15 you charge into the front yard to find your dear cousins piling out of their car with breakfast tacos for all.
You spend a joyful 45 minutes playing and showing off your new items and receiving a hand-me-down teddy bear in roller skates from Lyla, who’s excited to bestow it. At 9, we say goodbye and load up for our next stop. Wildflowers? A pond with fishes? Must be the wildflower center! Or, as you recall it, the place you had your 4-year-old birthday party.
It’s a hopping scene, but we check right in with our reservations and our masks, and meet friends Sage and Silas at the fish pond. You all set off at a run, checking off items on the scavenger hunt and acquiescing to photo ops on the way. We haven’t been here in a year and a half, and the ghosts of younger you and Paul haunt our trip, toddling tediously through terrain you race through now.
At 11, we’re loading up again. You’re enthusiastically dismantling the sea monkey kit our friends gifted you, and we’re headed to the turtle pond by the UT Tower for our next surprise. “I think we’re meeting more friends,” you guess, “because all the other surprises have been people.” Well-reasoned, my child. We reach the turtle pond and spot another mother-daughter pair on a blanket. It’s June. Your best friend and love of your life ages 2-4, who you have not seen in nearly a year or played with since school was abruptly cancelled last March.
It takes 20 minutes for you to warm up, both clinging to our laps and whispering in our ears about how the other has changed, and how the other must be feeling shy, and whether it might be okay to give her a gift. Finally, she begins hunting acorns, and you volunteer to help. Soon enough, you’re skipping through the grass, running back to me only to confide, “June’s not actually feeling too shy.” Her mother and I enjoy catching up and get a little misty watching you.
We head home. Paul and Dad have had their own special time, and the two of you take turns at video games for a bit. Gobka and Gamma call, and you show off your presents. A teacher at school has gifted you your first eye shadow and two kinds of lip gloss. “Median, I have never had such beautiful things! Thank you!” you call to the sky.
You do some playing and take Sous for a short walk (your idea). You and Paul start bickering, so we decide it’s movie time, and that you’re ready for the first Harry Potter. You are into it. We watch half, eat dinner, and you start playing again, happily this time, scrubbing the banisters with your new toothbrushes. Sure.
We head upstairs at 7, and you turn those toothbrushes to their intended use. The timer on the set has you brushing for 10x as long as normal, and you enjoy it so much you do it twice, suds running down your chin. You arrange all your new toys and cosmetics on your bed and paint your whole face and the soles of your feet with lip gloss while I read a chapter of Beezus and Ramona. I say goodnight, and Dad runs interference until you’re asleep. SIX. You’re SIX now.