Now You Are Five

19 Jan

Dear Theo,

Five is a big one, eh? Half a decade. An outstretched hand with every finger proudly displayed. 1,826 loops around the sun.

You look so grownup lately. You’ve lost what little baby roundness you had and now you’re all skinny legs and big feet. You don’t sound like a baby anymore, either. You pepper your conversations with big words and thoughtful observations. Sometimes your brain is going faster than your mouth and you stumble over what you’re trying to say, then complain that you can’t get it out – but you always do, eventually, once you slow down enough to put the syllables in the right order.

I’ve always wondered how much of our personalities are innate and how much are shaped by the circumstances in which we grow up, but looking back through your other birthday letters it’s hard not to feel like you’ve always been exactly who you are. The things I want to tell you about yourself haven’t changed much since the first letter I wrote to you when you were two – you’re still funny, still charming, still easygoing and friendly. You’re stubborn, and when you want to master something you don’t give up easily. You still hate sleeping.

Your teachers tell me that you’re doing very well socially – there isn’t a single kid in your class who doesn’t consider you to be their friend. You have a fluidity that lets you move between different groups of peers with an ease that makes me envious. I ask you every day who you played with at school, and I always get different answers – sometimes you’ve gone tobogganing with R, or played house with E and U, or built a pretend castle with M.

One of your classmates says she wants to marry you, but you say you’re never going to get married because you’re going to be a farmer.

This past September you started public school. Downtown. In French. In a class with 23 other kids you’d never met before September. This was a big change from your tiny, homey daycare in Forest Hill, and it certainly wasn’t without its challenges. I kind of approached with the attitude that if we threw you in the water, you’d probably learn to swim – after all, that’s what I did when I was your age, and I turned out ok, right? We had some rough patches this fall and I don’t know if I’d make the same choices again, but I’ll be damned if you aren’t pulling through with mostly flying colours.

We’ve gone through some difficult times this year. One night – maybe the worst night – I was trying to talk to you about your behaviour at school for what seemed like the millionth time and I started crying.

“I just want you to be a good listener,” I said.

You started crying too, and I was sure that you were about to apologize or promise to do better.

Instead, you said, “I just want to be able to do whatever I want.”

I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry harder.

You’re not as easy for me to understand these days. You’re more opaque; I can’t always figure out what you’re thinking or what motivates your behaviour. I know that babies always think they’re an extension of their parents, but for a long time it felt like you were a sort of extension of me, or maybe another iteration of me – I knew you somehow, just like I knew myself. That’s slowly changing, and I know it’s very normal and healthy. You’re moving away from me and becoming your own person with private thoughts and desires and that’s exactly how this is supposed to happen.

But I do miss those moments of communion where I wasn’t sure where my self ended and yours began. Those aren’t exactly the right words, but they’ll have to do for now.

I love you. I love the way your eyes get so big and blue when you’re excited about something. I love your wild imagination (and all the bizarre things I overhear you say when you’re playing pretend). I love your empathy and your thoughtfulness, how you like to pick out presents for people and you always seem to know what they like. I love how you practice French pronunciations in your room, rolling your Rs over and over until you get it just right. I love the moments we look at each other out of the corners of our eyes and burst out laughing just because. I love that your life goal is to get me a spacesuit that matches yours.

Remember earlier when I said you were very much the same person that you always had been? Well, that’s kind of true and not true. I used to always joke about how little interest you had in art – in fact, I mentioned in last year’s letter that you kind of suck at drawing – and all of the sudden now you’re all over it. You love drawing all kinds of things, but your favourite things to create are blueprints and assembly guides. We got you a loft bed and put a little table and chair set under it and now you call that space your “invention dimension.” You’ll happily spend hours under there “inventing” things like a poop factory or a robot that picks up garbage.

So I guess that as much as personalities might seem set and innate and unchangeable, we probably all have the capacity for change, eh?

I feel like this year you’ve taken your first steps in the grownup world. It’s been scary, and it’s going to keep being scary for a while, I bet. I’m helping you choose your path, and that fact obviously carries a lot of weight with it. Lots of times I don’t know what I’m doing and all I can do is make the best decision possible based on the currently available data. But we’re figuring this out, you know? And I’ll keep running along behind you, acting like your training wheels until you can finally steer this thing on your own.

Happy birthday, Theo.


A sketch of our apartment building with a secret fort on top and also two spy planes and a pet frog



Assembly instructions for a robot



Baby’s first Jays game


Baby’s first jazz show


When you fall asleep playing with your dinos



Practicing his nurturing skills


Still really into My Little Pony



Dressed up as a vampire pirate for Hallowe’en because honestly why should you have to choose between the two?



Blowing out the candles at his fifth birthday

22 Responses to “Now You Are Five”

  1. Mavis Chan January 19, 2016 at 4:32 am #

    so beautiful

  2. Mavis Chan January 19, 2016 at 4:32 am #

    so beautiful

  3. Helene Ambler January 19, 2016 at 4:51 am #

    Dear Anne, you write exquisitely. with logic, pragmatism, passion, deep love and fear. I adore your writing and this, in particular, has been the most beautiful piece of writing I’ve read in so long. Your little Theo, in your translation of him to the rest of us, is an incredible and beautiful delight – thank you. I have a just-turned-five-year-old, Alexander. He reminds me so much of your Theo. Such a crazy mix of wonderment, grown – up-edness since turning 5 a few weeks ago, independence, a brand new vernacular even I cannot penetrate (!) and a new form of ‘loving’ which replaces breast-feeding: “you’re cool and beautiful mum, don’t ever talk about those dimples on your thighs like you talk about that horrible man at work” hehe (“revolting and I wish they didn’t exist!). Your post made me weep. And inspired me to write a letter to Alexander when he embarks on his journey into the ‘real 5-year-old world’ which is school, here in NZ, in a couple of weeks. Thank you xx

  4. DayDreamer52 January 19, 2016 at 6:10 am #

    This letter is amazing. And it’s written so beautifully! Theo sounds like an amazing child. And the pictures are really cute as well. Hope you guys are doing well. Take care xx

  5. MarinaSofia January 19, 2016 at 6:17 am #

    Happy birthday, Theo, what a lovely age five is (at least, in retrospect, when you hit 13 with your older son).

  6. platinumhowler14 January 19, 2016 at 7:38 am #

    Hey, you’re from Toronto! I guess you enjoyed the wild ride Anthopoulos gave you last year 😀

  7. woollythinker January 19, 2016 at 8:11 am #

    Lovely post for a lovely boy!

    On that “I just want to do whatever I want” thing: four/five was about when I noticed my daughter starting to get very hung up on that. (In phases. It comes and goes.) I figured she was becoming particularly aware of her own will, her existence as a separate person, and sometimes she just really wanted to test that, to push against what WE wanted and assert her own sovereignty. This really isn’t the place for unsolicited parenting advice (and I don’t really have any concrete tips anyway), but I find it helps to see things from that perspective and imagine what it’s like for her, feeling like mommy and daddy always get their way and she never does.

    I hope this isn’t too much over that unsolicited advice line! Thank you for your always beautiful writing.

  8. sumaica January 19, 2016 at 8:39 am #

    He is so darn cute. 🙂

  9. cheekygigglesonapumpkintummy January 19, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    Beautiful words for a lovely boy!

  10. poshbirdy January 19, 2016 at 10:01 am #

    Beautiful. Love the honest observation. I was never able to pin this down, but you really have hit it spot on. And lovely photos

  11. Patrick Patterson January 19, 2016 at 11:35 am #

    He is beautiful

  12. Ian Burgess Photography January 19, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    So touching. Now I wish I’d done this when C was five (she’s ten now)…they are such a gift…perhaps our greatest teachers too.

  13. Tiffany January 19, 2016 at 5:35 pm #

    This is such a lovely read. Theo’s adorable. 🙂

    I hope you keep these letters for him to read when he grows up. If my mother ever wrote something like this for me, I would treasure it.

  14. kyanabrindle January 19, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

    This is so wonderful and touching. I loved reading it. Thank you.
    p.s. The vampire pirate costume is the best ever.

  15. Everyday Voices January 20, 2016 at 2:33 am #

    This so touching and moving and Theo is adorable. My daughter will be 5 this year and it seems like such a milestone, even though it’s one I arbitrarily assigned. Welcome to being 5 Theo.

  16. maryam January 20, 2016 at 9:06 am #

    Reblogged this on Maryam Jamilah.

  17. enochered January 20, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    You have inspired me. I have finally realised exactly what is missing from wordpress. There are not enough, if any, men who tell it straight and clear, in the face, the reality about women and feminism in particular. It cannot be quite as feminists choose to present it. I have many hen-pecked friends who will agree with me. Nice blog you have here apart from anything else. Good luck.

  18. Ann January 20, 2016 at 7:27 pm #

    You have a really cute kid, and I’m delighted to hear how well he’s getting along with his classmates. I was never good at that, and I was worried that being a pedant would put them off. Part of it is up to him, but you’re doing something right.

  19. margecake January 21, 2016 at 10:22 pm #

    so touching and beautiful! cute!

  20. broadsideblog January 22, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    Happy birthday, Theo! Love that you are so aware of him and his subtle changes. What a gift for him as he grows (and you) to have a record of this time in words. Love “invention dimension”!

  21. Tonya Ferguson February 4, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    Theo is so lucky to have a mother who can write like you. Beautiful words for a beautiful child.


  1. Now You Are Five – Rachel Rawe - February 24, 2016

    […] Source: Now You Are Five […]

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