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.
Annie thinks that three-leaf clovers are the special ones, and we have the luckiest yard on earth.
The American Girl doll catalog arrived unbidden at our house, and I watched Annie enjoy it in precisely the same way as I enjoy CB2 and Design Within Reach. She is blissfully ignorant that the content is for sale.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 7 months old.
You’ve slept well, and emerge into our room still groggy at 7:10. Dad and I take turns snuggling you as you wake up.
You’re extremely hungry due to rejecting dinner last night, so ask if I can help you with your clothes and teeth so we can get down to breakfast asap. Of course! We dress and descend. You tell me I can pick what’s for breakfast, so it’s sort of the end of a few bags of cereal, mixed up. Yum. Also some yogurt.
You and Annie decided yesterday you want to be the first to school, and everything is smooth sailing, so you depart with Dad at ten till 8 and are delighted to be the second kids there. There’s a fiesta at school today to celebrate the beginning of spring, with Venezuelan-themed snacks. You play and play.
Dad picks you up, too, and at 5 you and Annie ring the doorbell, pretending to be delivering packages. Actually, you are the package, and I sweep you up in a hug, “my favorite delivery of all.”
You’re giddy with the possibilities of home, and bounce around between options for fun (the swings! a new box to play in! painting that box!) before settling on, no surprise, a level of the robot game while dinner finishes cooking.
At dinner, you turn to me and ask, “Do you know HOW I learned I had super powers?” “No, how??” “I could pick up a WHOLE HOUSE.” “A whole house??” “Yeah, OVER MY HEAD.”
You decamp to the swings with your push-up pops for dessert. Finding an ancient deflated beach ball partially filled with water, you return and ask us to fill it up, all the way, with water. Dad declines and smuggles it to the trash while you return to romping.
It’s Friday and movie night, so we pop some popcorn and fire up The Incredibles, which you mostly follow. Super heroes, man, they’re all over the place.
During the movie, you turn to me and share: “Mommy, do you know what my car looks like? It’s rainbow polka dot, and it has two projectors on both sides, and a turbo jet on top, AND it can get clean with a lightning bolt. It doesn’t even need to go through a car wash!” Awesome.
We head up to bed at 7. Brush teeth, change clothes, and read the customized books Nanny Charly got for you both years ago. Annie executes a sun salutation with Dad while you and I lie in your bed-tent-cave, and you tell me about our super powers. You are Lightning Storm, who fights storms by creating new suns that pop the clouds. Whoa. I am Superman, you tell me, and I save people from fires. There is a lot more. You could go on. At 7:35, I extract myself, and Dad reads a chapter of DogMan. Spirits remain high. It’s going to be a good weekend.