Five. Man, it’s wild. It has me all sorts of frazzled. The more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve realized that having a five-year-old son makes me feel almost exactly like I did when he was a newborn. It’s kind of caught me off guard. So hopefully this will either prepare you for what’s coming as you snuggle your sweet baby or it will bring back memories of the “chaos that is five.” I don’t know if this will apply to my daughter when she’s five. I’ll let you know next year. But for right now, in this season, I feel the similarities between the two ages like you wouldn’t believe. So, here are five reasons five-year-olds are like newborns:
1. What is sleep?
When you have a newborn: Sleep is an illusion that calls your name as you stand panting in the desert of deprivation. You’ve never done this before. You don’t know this person. You don’t know what makes him tick. It takes time to figure out how to get him to sleep and stay asleep. And in the process, you forget sleep. You forget what it looks like, what it feels like, and what it means to be rested.
When you have a five-year-old: Sleep quietly exits stage left and leaves in its place nightmares, growing pains, and the never-ending excuses for NOT sleeping. I’m thirsty. I’m too tired to sleep. I have a stomachache. Why do we even need to sleep? I think I heard a lizard on my window last night so I need to stay up and listen for it and then catch it tonight. I’m terrified of lizards. Leave the bathroom light on. The bathroom light is too bright under my door, and it makes me think the sun is up so it’s daytime and I want to play.
By the time we close the door after prayers, song, and questions about spaceships, I feel like we barely survived. Just like I did five years ago.
2. So many tears… But why? Answer: You’ll never know.
When you have a newborn: Why is he crying? We don’t know. Is it overstimulation? Under stimulation? Too much sleep? Too little sleep? Gas? Poop? Teething? JUST TELL ME WHY you’re crying and I can help you.
When you have a five-year-old: You still don’t know why he is crying. Is he too tired? Did the show you put on after dinner leave him overstimulated and now the Reign of Wild has taken over? Was the sugary popsicle to blame? Why is he crying on the living room floor when two seconds ago he was fine? You don’t know. One difference, which is sometimes helpful and sometimes not: sometimes they CAN tell you. They’ll tell you about their hurt feelings, hurt leg, or hurt head. They’ll tell you all about how the sun is too hot or how his sister got one (of literally anything) and he didn’t. And of course, they’ll blame their tears on the one fear you’ve had since you cradled your sweet newborn. They’ll tell you that you’re a mean mom. Sweet, sweet motherhood, amiright?
3. You’ll want to restrain them.
When you have a newborn: Ah, Swaddles. The life-giving Velcro® piece of magic developed so your baby doesn’t scratch her eyeballs out. As a new mom I loved that stretchy fabric designed to roll up my baby like a burrito in hopes of attaining that illusive sleep we talked about before. I remember staring at my little burrito-babies and thinking how sweet and cozy they looked. I never wanted to un-swaddle them.
When you have a five-year-old: You’re still concerned about him scratching his eyeballs out. But now it’s a fear that feels a lot more likely when he’s climbing the fence to jump off of it. In fact, it’s not just his hands he doesn’t have control of; it’s all of his limbs. Why must a five-year-old trip on the pointiest and most dangerous rocks at the park? Why are his shins so covered in bruises you’re worried his preschool teacher will call you to discuss it? Why is his body still flopping to the ground when he gets devastating news like the fact that ice cream isn’t a vegetable? Sometimes I say, “Please. Just sit here. With your hands and legs and feet and head and neck and fingers just sitting doing nothing. Just for a minute.” Ah, yes… the swaddle. I wish it came in sizes that fit a five-year-old.
4. You’ll be amazed at every new thing they do.
When you have a newborn: Remember it? Remember the first gas-smile that you swore was a real smile but knew it wasn’t? Remember the first time he grasped your finger and it felt like he was holding your hand? Remember the first time those little newborn eyes focused on your face and it was like you were meeting him all over again? Every new thing he did was amazing. The first time he giggled or rolled over. Even the first time he threw up an entire feeding right down my shirt. How did he do it?! Where did it all come from?! Amazing.
When you have a five-year-old: You still feel amazed (sometimes shocked), like when he’s playing with a dead lizard. (Why is it always lizards?!) Sometimes aghast, like when he pulls down his pants in the Target parking lot to pee. But also amazed, like when you see him being kind to someone without having to remind him to be kind. Or when he brings you a flower he picked on the playground at school that day and saved it just for you. Bike rides, swimming underwater on his own, climbing trees, doing jumps on his scooter… How do they do that stuff so easily when you never knew they could? Amazing.
5. It goes way too quickly.
I am a chronic time-bottler. From the day my children were born, an ache started to form in my bones that never goes away.
When you have a newborn: I cried as I held him, knowing it was all slipping away. I took mental screen shots of him. I wrote down things I was desperate not to forget. I stared at him and committed every facet of him to memory like my life depended on it. It hasn’t gotten better with time.
When you have a five-year-old: I sneak into his room at night and brush his hair from his forehead, wondering what parts of the day he’ll remember. (Please don’t let it be when I yelled at him without pants on…) I hold his hand and look down at it as it morphs from a pudgy little baby hand into the slender, scabbed, and scraped hand of a little boy. All the while, I know that his tiny little hand that once grasped my finger will one day belong to a man. It’s going too quickly. It’s still messy. (Why is poop still such a big part of our lives?) It’s still confusing. It’s still emotional. It’s different… but the same. And I hope I can remember all of it.