My son turns five years old today. This has been the age that I’ve been dreading the most since his birth. Each birthday up until then didn’t bother me because I still had plenty of time for him to be little. Now that half of a decade has passed, I can’t deny that he is growing up.
I see evidence of his growing into big boy shoes every day. He takes leaps off of tall objects now with confidence, and I can watch him knowing that he can safely land the jump because he’s big enough now. We’ve spent years with me hovering around him and catching him because he wouldn’t otherwise be safe, but he’s ready to take more risks now.
Our conversations have changed. We actually cover some deep topics together and he can stay with me for five minutes before moving on to some question about bugs or robots. Selfishly, I wish I could shield him from some of the realities we’ve had to discuss like sickness, death, and bullies. I want to hold onto that innocent little boy who could curl up on my lap without limbs spilling over the sides of it. That’s not who he is anymore, however, and it would be a shame if I missed out on the time we have right now by lamenting what’s already come to pass.
Discipline has a new level of challenge to it that hurts my heart more than it ever has before. When he was small, I could guarantee that if I was consistent, loving, and firm in what I expected for long enough, he would change his poor choices. Sure the days of training were brutal, but one day, he got it, and he was happy with his new, improved way of doing things. Now that he’s maturing, he puts thought into the real “why” of what he’s doing. He understands consequences and good choices versus bad choices. He rationalizes with his limited perception of truth. Life and what I expect of him no longer seem fair to him as a result of what he thinks he understands, and there are times that he willfully chooses misery over compliance. I know from experience that this will be a life-long struggle because he’s human.
I’m having to learn to let go of how wrapped up I tend to get in his feelings. Five is a milestone in independence, after all. While giving birth and caring for a baby then a toddler has required me to finally fully realize that life’s not all about me, having a little boy on the verge of becoming a big boy is making me accept that life’s not about letting my identity be completely wrapped up in someone else either. Being on either extreme of the spectrum is dangerous.
Sure, I have learned a lot about giving up selfishness over the last five years, but it’s because of those realizations that I can accept that not allowing Dash to be his own person because I’m not ready for him to grow up is simply another form of selfishness. I’ve been preparing him to be independent from the first few months of his life, so now it’s time to let go just a little bit more and let him take some risks as he learns how to make it through the roads ahead.
I’m grateful for the way God gracefully allows this process to move along in baby steps. This birthday is a big deal to me, but it’s only one more step towards him being grown up. Thankfully, we have many more years to grow together before he’s a grown-up. He’s not a full-fledged man yet, and he does still enjoy cuddling with me even if it’s a tighter fit than it used to be.
As I choose to let him be bigger in my heart, I’m reminded that he is, in fact, God’s child. As much as I want him to belong solely to me sometimes, He’s always been God’s, and His purpose for my growing-up boy is to mature and flourish into a man of God.