Friday, March 15, 2013


Manolin will be five in June. And as you probably already know, five is that magical, mystical age when people around you start expecting you to do something, you know... educational... with a child.

Because the previous five years' worth of coloring and storybooks and birdwatching and manipulating blocks don't count, I guess.

Anyhow, Mani is nearly five. And, right on cue, he is asking the kind of questions I have come to expect of five year-old boys.

What does that sign say?

How do birds fly?

What's inside the tires on a dump truck?

Why do flowers die in the winter?

Does God take naps?

Like Logan (and Oli) before him, Mani is showing no signs of being interested in reading for its own sake, or in taking pleasure in the arbitrary adding of numbers on a worksheet. What does rock his world is figuring out which canister on the counter holds flour and which one holds sugar by running his finger over the inset letters and asking me the sounds each one makes, or folding just the right number of cloth napkins for each family member at dinner time. He's also especially tickled by movement--any kind of movement. Be a bear, be a bee, be a man climbing a mountain ... be anything, as long as it involves motion.

Since this is not my first trip around the sun with a 5 year-old boy, I'm comfortable watching what I consider the perfectly normal development of a busy, bright, loving little man on the verge of a huge burst in knowing. I'm also cherishing these days with an especially soft glow knowing that Oli has yet to find this particular place and may not, ever. In special needs parenting, there is always, always that keen sense of sadness even as there is joy when you watch one of your neurotypical children progressing along just as they should.

So forgive me if my idea of education at five looks less like phonics and arithmetic and more like nature walks and finger knitting. I've been here, and done that. And the one thing I learned --maybe not the first time, but definitely by the third go-- is this: five slips into six, eight, twelve before you know it. The books will be read. The chemical equations will be learned. But the days of kneading dough because you were inspired by a story, or of drawing rainbows on the driveway because you saw one and just had to know which colors went where ... those things will fade away just as quickly as they have come. You are, after all, only five once.

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