I was driving home after my son’s swimming lesson, and I wasn’t happy. The lesson hadn’t gone well. He’d kidded around, acted unsafely and hadn’t listened to the teacher. He was a smart-arse and was unrepentant. I had told him not to worry and that he’d do better next week. I had asked him how he was, wondering if he was tired or if something was wrong. I was calm. I was breathing. I was doing it all right. “How do you think you did this week?”.

But before long, I was criticising him, telling him how he should do better at swimming, that he had gone backwards, that he was acting like a baby.  It got more heated as he started answering back, declaring that he knew how to swim because he was 5. I threatened to withdraw treats until he picked up his game. The argument spiralled and my blood boiled.

I felt the words form in my head. I felt part of my head say “Oh god, don’t say that”. Words only travel one way, there’s no reverse. But a second later out it came:

“Well, if you keep doing that you’ll drown. Then you’ll be dead and you’ll never be 6”.

WHO THE FUCK SAYS THAT TO A FIVE YEAR OLD?
Yep.
This guy.
W.
T.
F.?

Yep. Told him to listen to me or he’d die. And even now I can’t get the image of it out of my head, even though it’s 2 weeks later. I just wanted him to shut up. I thought I could scare or hurt him into stopping. And it worked. And the croaky “Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that” afterwards didn’t take the words back.

He’s impulsive, stubborn and defiant.  He pushes boundaries, answers back and is even moodier than me.

That’s what he does. He’s 5.

But that’s not all he does.

Up they go.....

Up they go…..

We were going out geocaching. The actual geocaching part often a secondary consideration during our outings… My son found a “mountain”. It was a rock pile, leftovers from the Red White and Blue mine near a very small town called Muckleford. He climbed it. He did it without my help, at his own insistence, and he stood tall at the top and declared that he’d climbed it. “I’d never climbed that mountain before, dad. Have you?”. “No, I haven’t…”

He’s climbing mountains.

That’s what he does. He’s 5.

Waiting for another first.

Yesterday we were out, and the children were on a playground. The Lass, was stuck up a slide and had lost the confidence to come down. She was crying and we couldn’t get up to her, the playground was not designed for adults to ascend. Calm as anything, The Lad called out to her and told her not to worry. He went up and helped her calm down, then he helped her come down the slide. They played together beautifully, as his little sister found she could climb and slide like her big brother. He’d showed her how.

There was another younger kid on the same playground that day. The Lad helped him join in and looked after him. The small one’s mum said thanks to him for taking care of her son, and she said thanks to us too, although we don’t think we deserved any credit. Our boy is just a caring and tender soul.

That’s what he does. He’s 5.

But that’s not all he does.

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He’s trying to make sense of time at the moment. “Dad, when I was 3 how old were you?”. “When I’m 40, how old will you be?”. He wants to know when he’s big enough to do things, play computer games, trick or treat, ride a bike… He wants to know when he’ll be a man. When he’ll be older than me (and yes I’ve explained that won’t happen, still asks though) and what school will be like.

He is so excited and optimistic about the future. About our life together and about all the things he’s going to do in the world.

That’s what he does. He’s 5.

But that’s not all he does.

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My children weren’t sleeping. They weren’t listening and they were back-chatting. I’d asked them stop, told them it was time for bead, put them in bed and started singing to them in my famous soothing dad voice. But they were kicking bed sheets around. I felt it rising, again. I had read stories (3 of them). I’d let them cuddle me and soothed them as best I could. And it was getting me nowhere.

“Kid’s, daddy’s starting to feel frustrated, can you please lie down?”
Both kids kicked off their blankets, and The Lad started laughing at me. I took a breath.
“Okay, daddy needs to step out for a couple of minutes and cool off.”

I hadn’t planned to do that, or say that. I mean what kind of dad can’t hack putting his kids to sleep. Well, tonight that dad was this guy. So I stepped out. Took 2 minutes, went back in and at least got one of the kids to sleep. Okay, the other one wanted mum, but still there was no yelling, no grumbling and no saying of words I couldn’t take back.

He’d pushed me to the limit, and forced me to deal with it. He’d made me grow up and made me a better man.

That’s what he does. He’s 5. And his sister helps too.

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He’s 10cm taller than he was 10 months ago. At his age average growth (according to our family doctor) is 5cm a year. He is growing up and up. But it’s not just his height that’s increasing, it’s his depth. New ideas, new concepts and new perspectives are filling that brain of his. He’s getting bigger and bigger. His body, his mind and his soul.

That’s what he does. He’s 5.

And I’d better get used to it, because I don’t think he’s going to get any smaller any time soon.