Mattheus turned five and a half last month, and it seemed as if almost over night he started careening toward the “change of teeth,” developmental shift. It was hard at first. Surprising, as is so often true with these moments in a biography. For a while, we wonder if life with him has become challenging because he is getting sick. Or perhaps our lives have been too busy. Or our rhythm too weak. Then we gradually begin to realize that something is changing within him, and that we need to see him differently. We begin to shift our interactions bit by bit and then life becomes a bit smoother.
We realize that the mini-teenager defiance is him asserting his own individuality. That the moodiness is a little bit of astral awakening, and a little bit of discomfort with his new relationship to himself and the world around him. “No one understands me!” is a common refrain, and I think he can include himself in that statement. We begin to understand that the separation from his siblings, the way he looks at them with an expression on his face than can mean nothing other than, “they are so immature!” comes from his deep sense that he is somehow becoming very different from them. All of this awareness is remarkable to watch and at times difficult to meet–for the most part, uncharted territory for all of us.
His temperament, which has leaned toward melancholic for sometime, is really beginning to emerge. He craves alone time and has begun advocating for moving to a bigger house so that he can have his own room.
He experiences the smallest disappointments as calamities. Last week he greeted John at the gate with the announcement, “Papa, I have some really very awful news. Sigh. Long Pause. Forlorn look. “There are biting ants in the sandbox.”
But he is becoming more tender as well. Full of a need for tactile closeness, hugs and snuggles and kisses.
He moves through these summer days playing alone in his bed, wrapped up in elaborate imaginative play (scuba diving is big at the moment), working on a building project, captivating us with long explanations of his life, or asking to be read to from a chapter book. He “is really getting too old for books with lots of pictures since it won’t be too long before he learns his numbers.” Last week we installed a shelf over his bed to keep some of this special things away from his siblings, and today he designed a new shelf to put over the posts between his bed. John helped him a bit with the execution, but it was truly Mattheus’ show. This meaningful work is so soul fulfilling to him at the moment. (I did have to negotiate what could go on the shelf. “I don’t think keeping all of your tools up there is the best idea. What if a hammer or a saw fell on your head in the middle of the night?” Next step? “Well, I need my own place on Papa’s work bench where the ‘littles’ can’t get to my things.” That we could arrange.)
He’s also taken great interest in the garden and is able to understand and help in new ways. He’s been plucking suckers off tomatoes, weeding, cutting and bunching herbs for drying, watering, discerning more accurately when things are ripe and increasing in his ability to identify all of the various plants. I do so enjoy sharing this love of mine with him.
It’s truly exhilarating to watch him. The way that a child protected from so much of the adult world emerges with a full and intact individuality. Of course, much to learn about life, but so many of his own intentions and wisdom to share.