Every morning, Thomas starts his day by slipping out of bed and silently making his way through the house. When he gets to my room, he opens the door without a sound and tiptoes to my side of the bed where he whispers, “Hi, Mom. Do you want to Beyblade with me?”
That’s how I start my day — with a sneaky little imp at my bedside, a reminder that I am the most blessed person in the whole entire world.
Thomas spends every day Beyblading, building, discovering, exploring, and studying — all in his trademark uniform — a pair of underwear.
Thomas is unique, thoughtful, wild, inquisitive, adventurous, and a deep feeler. He is fearless on his balance bike and terrified of a pedal bike. This year he learned how to start and maintain a fire. His true, deep, abiding love — the thing he plays with more than anything else — is our garden hose.
Thomas is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. And now he’s five.
This year, his fifth year of life, Thomas learned that dinosaurs are extinct. In all the reading we’ve done about dinosaurs, all the explaining about herbivores and carnivores, the examining claws and frills, I never happened upon what should have been the introductory sentence about dinosaurs: they aren’t around anymore.
One day when we were reading a dinosaur book, Thomas asked, “Mommy, where ARE dinosaurs?” I asked him what he meant and he explained, “I never see dinosaurs living HERE, so where do the dinosaurs live?”
Can you imagine? All this time he figured these huge monsters were maybe down in Florida where it’s warmer, with the alligators and gigantic mosquitoes.
This is, perhaps, the world of a five-year-old. If he’s supposed to believe that letters make sounds and numbers supposedly hold weight and quantity in those squiggly lines, then why couldn’t dinosaurs roam where perhaps the winters aren’t so cold? What’s the difference between the books we read about horses and the books about unicorns? Octopuses are real, so why not mermaids?
When you are five, the world is nothing but possibility and magic.
Thomas is my little scientist. He loves to study and examine. He loves to turn problems around in his hands — bounce them, flip them, and observe the results. The world is his laboratory– he watches bugs and frogs and reports back everything he learns about how they behave. He refuses to memorize letters or numbers, but he knows the names of every insect, arachnid, and reptile on the Eastern seaboard.
Thomas is fascinating and frustrating because he will not sit long enough to color a picture, but he can stare at a line of ants or watch a creek flows over stones all afternoon. Thomas will not follow instructions to build Legos, but he will spend hours constructing a volcano out of a hose and a pile of mulch — incrementally adjusting the mulch and the flow of water until it’s just right.
His favorite toys are fire and water; his favorite playground is a trail in the woods.
They say play is the work of childhood, and that’s a concept I’ve always believed, but with Thomas I can SEE that work happening. When Thomas interacts with the world you can watch him, layer by layer, unfold its mysteries.
Thomas will stare at a fire for a few minutes and then turn around and say, “Hey, Mom. A fire is just like us. It eats but instead of using a mouth it uses hotness.”
Thomas is always thinking, always working things out in his head. When I least expect it, he asks me, “Mom? How does your mouth keep your brain clean when it’s eating?”
“Mom? Is fish blood and human blood the same color?”
“Mom? Why can’t I see my head?”
“Mom? How do you make a song?”
In our family, Thomas finds himself in between the big kids and his baby sister. He is a middle child of sorts who spends so much energy trying to bridge the gap. He is abundantly patient with his little sister, and absolutely worships his older siblings — especially his older brother. He loves everything David does, and follows his interests and disinterests in lock step.
His reverence for David is both beautiful and painful. I once overheard him saying, “This is cool, right, David?” I sort of cringed. love their relationship, and I love that Thomas has such a great role model. But I want Thomas to just trust himself. It IS cool if you think it’s cool. Your brother isn’t a Great Being of Splendor and Light — he’s just 9. That’s why he’s good on his bike and can draw dragons. I promise, he’s not better than you he’s just older.
But then also I’m like, “Hey, David? Would you mind telling Thomas that these pants are cool? I really want him to wear them on Easter morning.”
Thomas has a few mispronunciations that I love and have immediately added to my vernacular. He dropped them this year, but I still say them. Bur-sgusting. Bur-diculous. Now he corrects me — Disgusting! Ridiculous! And I give him the side-eye because how dare he grow up.
I tell Thomas all the time that I don’t want him to grow up. Two really seemed like the right age for him. Then three was even better — he was still rascally with improved fine motor development. Four was fine but five? Five is growing up. Five is a big boy.
He is a big boy, but still one that brings me flowers and loves to cuddle.
“Mom, can we cuddle?” he asked me one afternoon. It was a million degrees outside and I was touched-out, so I said no, and he replied, “How about just hug for a long time?”
Thomas agrees with me. He doesn’t want to be a grown-up because grown-ups are boring and eat gross food. But when I tell him to stay little, he replies, “Well then you are going to have to talk to God because I don’t know how to stop growing!”
One of the down sides to having a mom who tends to post pictures of you on social media doing things like climbing the bookshelves or running naked down the street, you get a certain kind of reputation. Thomas is always up to shenanigans, he is wild and a free-spirit who pushes boundaries. But he isn’t just that. He’s also incredibly tender and sweet. He’s got a gentle, sensitive heart that few people get to see.
In fact, I think it might be his tender, empathetic heart that draws him to studying the world the way he does. Where is that bee going? What is that cricket doing? What would life be like if I had big hoppy legs like that?
Thomas is a kid who is fiercely independent and loves to cuddle. He’s the kid who runs away from me in parking lots and on playgrounds, but every single night at dinner he somehow finds his way into my lap.
He is five, so big and so little.
Thomas’s fifth year of life came to a screeching halt, like everyone else’s, in March when COVID shut down the entire world. Thomas stopped preschool, and now kindergarten in the fall is in question. For Thomas, this couldn’t have come at a better time.
Like everyone says about babies and dogs, Thomas has thrived in quarantine. He loves being at home, wearing nothing but underwear, with no where to go and no one to interact with. God bless those of you with social kids whose idea of a fascinating morning is anything other than watching kinetic sand slide through their fingers in the comfort of their own home. I do not know how you do it. For us, the whiplash will happen when things open up and Thomas has no choice but to get a haircut and put on a shirt. Please, start praying for all of us now.
Dear Tommy Llammy,
Being your mom is a wonderful journey; a fabulous path along which you leads m. There are bugs, frogs, dirt, a garden hose, and surprises around every corner. You are wild and gentle. You are hilarious and reserved. You are absolutely charming and phenomenally frustrating. You are take risks and you trust yourself when you think it’s best to wait and figure out what’s next.
You are never just one thing, you are all of those things at the same time.
You call dandelions “lion flowers” and tall stalks of grass wands. Being a five-year old boy is magic, but being the mother of one is a close second.
I love you so much,