I received my last age-based email from BabyCentre today. The site congratulated me and Robert on reaching this great milestone. The implication was that the parenting journey is still long but it can now be enjoyed at leisure, as the years rush by and the little boy slowly evolves into the man he is destined to become. Robert was just a tiny bean when I registered to receive weekly updates, describing in breathtaking detail every development my tiny yet unnamed baby has achieved, deep within the warm darkness of my womb. I would read them with a sense of wonder, grateful at my ability to procreate and nurture, after years of hardly daring to picture myself as a mother.
Shortly after Robert woke up today his father called from South Africa. Lest I confuse myself endlessly with this unexpected generosity, he was quick to explain that he was calling from an office internet phone. He pointed out that he can hardly believe it has been five years. Reminisced about the first time he saw Robert, just before he gave his first cry. “I remember the doctor saying, what a serious little guy”, he said, “Do you remember that?”. I had to make him repeat this over the static of the line, and then told him honestly that I never heard that, immobile from the waist down as I was, with my head at the opposite end of the table. Robert turned out to be quite a funny little fellow, he cannot resist using daily objects as comic props. Walking along one day on 2nd avenue he picked up the handle of a public phone and mimicked lathering himself in a shower. He cannot stop clowning around at school, but deep down he remains a serious little guy. After posting yet another picture of him on Facebook, a distant friend commented, “does he ever smile?”. Only then did I realize that his smiles on camera are very rare.
If I take a snapshot back at this last year I am amazed at the progress my little boy has made. Only a year ago he was a little more than a baby, who cried almost every morning when I left him at school. Today he walks in happily, starts immediately working or interacting with his friends, and cheerfully waves me goodbye.
A week before his fifth birthday I took him for a playdate with his friends at the Victorian Gardens, a small amusement park for kids exactly his age. Initially I thought that I would have to force him on one or two of the more docile rides, and steeled myself for having to go along with him. To my surprise he ran along with his friends and went on all but very few rides, we left when the last of his friends had to go home. A year ago this was not possible.
He is still shy with strangers he meets for the first time, but he quickly warms up to people, and I watched him make friends easily with peers and some adults. I have no worries about him socially as the day of starting in the big new school approaches. He would have some difficulties though in a team environment. He can be sometimes very stubborn, and that could prove detrimental in any group setting. I believe that this fierce individuality cost him a Kindergarten spot at the only private school I applied for. But I also think that he will be better served in the Gifted and Talented class, amongst equally bright kids. I also have plan for enrolling him in sport, and other creative team activities on the island. The first step is soccer practice, then perhaps creative drama for kids. I think he is a natural performer, I used to be like that as a kid too, but shyness got the better of me.
I know I am starting to sound like an ultra-competitive North American mother, but I will never push him into anything he doesn’t want. This is a time for exploration and experimentation to discover his aptitudes, and his talents. I will be happy when a few years from now, when he would start to tell me what he wants, even if he concentrates on one or two activities he really enjoys, or is very good at. I just hope to help him develop to his full potential, and I am optimistic that I am at the right time and place to do so.