5 years old


5 years old. 5 of them. 5 entire years.

I’ve been struggling all day to come up with something to say to mark the occasion, and I’m coming up completely blank. How have there been five years with this little guy? I’m still calling him a toddler!

I know every good parent thinks their child hung the moon, but I think mine might just have done it. We’ve got it bad for this kid. Jaws dropped, gasping, hands clasped, bad for this kid. He’ll be playing with his toys and we’ll be on the couch just watching him, marveling, until one of us says, “isn’t he the best kid?” We’re constantly amazed at how his little mind works, his tender little heart, his musical talent, his crazy smart brain, and his world flattening will.

That will is both his greatest blessing and his greatest curse. It’s that will that keeps him working and working and working to climb onto the couch, pushing himself onto his knees, stretching to grab on to the cushion, pushing up on his toes to try and stand, balancing precariously while he hoists himself up with his arms, pulling his torso further up until he can use the couch as a fulcrum to tip his uncooperative legs up behind him. I never had any idea how much physicality is required to exist in the world until I became his mom, and now every day I watch as he overcomes pain and isolation and biology to do things that rarely even merit a mention in the life of another kid. He is my hero.

But that will also makes him pretty dang uncooperative sometimes. When something is his idea, there is no force on earth that can stop him from doing it. But when it’s not his idea, there is no force on earth that can make him. As we start thinking about kindergarten, the big thing that would hold him back is his ability to follow directions. His speech therapists have begged and bribed him to say one little “b” word, but he just put his head down on his desk until it was time for them to leave. I never wanted to use discipline when it came to something that might be affected by his disability, but knowing what a smart little kid I have and what is at stake if he didn’t cooperate, I started laying the hammer down. Overnight he went from not being willing to say ‘hello’ to saying ‘Can I have a cookie, please?’ He’s such a little stinker and when I’m ready to wring his neck I have to sit back and remind myself that it’s that stubborn will that is going to get him walking. Walking, and through school, and on to college and an independent life. Nothing will stop him.

Having a kid like this, a kid faced with so many challenges and who so stubbornly attacks them, changes you totally. Being even a mediocre parent to a kid like this earns you shame. A kid like this requires you to rise up and meet him. And because of that, my experience in motherhood hasn’t at all been what I’ve expected. I feel far more proud of my efforts than guilt about what is left to be done. I don’t find the drudgery in motherhood to be a problem, because I’ve seen that drudgery is how great things happen. You push and you stretch and you stand and you balance and you pull and it all looks like a lot of effort for naught, but that’s what it takes to accomplish even the smallest tasks.

Laundry is never ending and the floor is always dirty and there is always some person you are neglecting or deadline you are missing, but all of those tasks add up to create something pretty damn powerful – nurturing. Most of us take for granted how many muscles have to cooperate and obey for us to stand up and walk to the kitchen. But Atti doesn’t. And I don’t. And most of us take for granted how many little attentions have to be paid to nurture a child, a relationship, an environment, but I don’t. Not anymore.

Atti has shown me how to see all the little dots in between where I am and where I want to be. So every day I move forward a couple of dots at a time and I don’t feel guilty for not being at the end yet, I keep my eye on where I’m headed and the life I want to create for my family and I keep moving. And that means that I’m going to be the mom that Atti needs and push and pull and balance and fight to help him make his way.

This kid of mine got that world flattening will from me.