Do you watch The Secret Life Of Four/Five/Six Year Olds? I am utterly fascinated by it; watching the mini society that small children create for themselves. I love seeing how they sort things out amongst themselves without adult intervention, how they structure their hierarchies, how they egg each other on and establish little tribes. My kids are in and around this age group so it holds an extra fascination for me.
I’ve been observing my own nearly-six year old to see how he shapes up in comparison. Here’s what I see:
When he has a playdate the supervising parent is persona non grata (except when it comes to begging for treats for him and his friend.) They disappear up the stairs to his room, where this sign adorns the door. Terms and conditions apply here though; when night falls we hear the not so tiny feet trotting into our bedroom “Can I lie down with you for a minute, I had a bad dream” He can’t keep us close enough when it suits.
It’s hard not to wrap them in cotton wool sometimes, to always deliver them where they need to go surrounded by head rests and safety belts inside a warm car. But that’s not realistic for us. We cycle to work and have had the boys on our bikes from about nine months old. This year we’ve worked on getting him to cycle the two kilometres to school along side one of us. There’s residential roads, commuter traffic, a canal, Luas tracks and a bit of a greenway to deal with. Remember: Look for a safe place! Don’t hurry stop and wait!
High Levels of Affection
He doesn’t object – yet – to my public displays of affection. I also give him about seventeen extra sneaky kisses after he falls asleep.
He has discovered Siri (the voice control on our iPhones.) “Show me Skye my favourite one in Paw Patrol”. He then, I kid you not, started kissing the phone screen. I have been usurped in his affections by a cartoon pup with a helicopter. When you put it like that though, I guess don’t blame him – she is pretty cool.
When I further questioned why Skye is his favourite, he shrugged his shoulders and told me very seriously that he doesn’t know but he loves her. (Paw Patrol is available on Netflix)
He eats overnight oats most days for his brekkie. So far so smug. Yet if asked what he wants for breakfast he would reply “Coco Pops” hopefully, without missing a beat.
Every time I exit a shop with milk/the newspaper under my arm he asks if I got him a pack of Match Attax (See: Collecting).
Collecting things has begun in earnest. Lego I am on board with, Match Attax; not so much. He knows nothing about football, but he loves those cards because a bigger boy in afterschool care got him addicted (and gives him his spares!) I can hardly begrudge him though, having lost a significant portion of my eighties pocket money to a collection of these:
He was a bit late to the arts n crafts game, but he’s making it up for it now. Where a year ago he would scribble a couple of colours and call it done before now he spends ages drawing intricate pictures. He sits with me and makes favourite tv characters line by line with Hama beads to stick on his wardrobe door. He pores over his books, trying to untangle the mess of words into a story. Rather than get frustrated he’s able to focus on a task and sees the rewards of his efforts.
The big issues
Life and death have reared their heads and it’s hard to get away without some kind of satisfactory explanation. Last year the loss of Tyra kickstarted the big questions. I can’t deal with zany breakfast radio so instead we have to keep a sharp ear out every morning, monitoring current affairs show ‘Morning Ireland’ for suitability and talking loudly over inappropriate subjects for him. News of atrocious events in Paris have not actually caught his attention in the past week, though I have read several helpful articles including this one that deal with how to address terrorist attack to children. He does frequently pipe up with questions like “did that guy die?” “did they say someone got killdeer?” We try to be truthful, but appropriate and allay any fears. All I can say is I’m happy not to live in the US where kindergartners practise lockdown drills.
Signs of Empathy
Parenting can be a bit thankless. Says she, in the understandment of the century. Luckily we’re starting to get glimmers of hope, small kindnesses shown that make me think maybe we are doing ok. If he sees me struggling with his younger brother – to get him to sit up at the table, to get in the car, to brush his teeth – he will often intervene, mimicking our language and explaining patiently why he needs to do something. The other night my sister was minding them and getting full-on night time pull up refusal from the three year old because he’s a big boy. Yeah; a big boy that wees all night. Dom launched into a speech about how when he was three and a big boy he wore a pull up. It didn’t work, but at least he sided with the adult. (And my sister just wrestled the toddler into his pull up in the end)
He’s funny. He’s curious. He lashes out. He’s a ball of energy. He’s loving. He’s loud. He’s five and five-sixths.