The Terrible Sixes

honea, zane, beach, kid, boy, sonThe 6-year-old is going through a phase, by which I mean that I really hope it’s a phase or I may lose it. Perhaps you have had a similar experience.

His name is Zane, and he has been riding high on freakish upper body strength and impossibly deep dimples for so long that he has forgotten where he came from.

He doesn’t listen. He doesn’t think about others. He doesn’t seem to care about anything but his own happiness, which on paper sounds blissful and sweet, but an hour after bedtime when he’s screaming for a cup of water, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, he still has his snuggle moments, but they are few and far between. What used to be a tender cuddle on the couch is now an ambush—a simple device to lower my defenses while he builds up his attack, and then fart happens.

To the victor goes the laughter.

His inability to do even the simplest of (non-bodily) functions without constant prodding from me or my wife has become downright exhausting. He is prone to pouts.

It wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose, if he hadn’t been just the opposite for the first five years of his life. The boy has always been caring, kind, and full of a natural empathy that many people never find, and the thought that he might be losing some of that, and the innocence that binds it together, is at the real root of my worry. Let’s be honest, thinking only of your own happiness has a few layers of awesome to it, and there is a certain comfort in joyful ignorance, but it’s also messy, and I’m tired of stepping on stuff.

Yesterday was like any other day. The boys were tan and tired from a weekend of festivals and hiking, and they woke cranky and uncooperative—Zane was on top of his game. My wife and I hung empty morning threats on the afternoon horizon in an effort to streamline the process. The results varied. We all trod off begrudgingly.

And so it was that I found myself standing outside of Zane’s classroom with a herd of other parents waiting on dismissal. My mind was racing between the friendly smalltalk of the hall and the meeting across town that I had just raced away from. My timing, for once, was perfect. The kids walked out and devoured their parents accordingly.

I was midway between a waiting stance and a welcoming hug when one of the other parents stopped, touched my arm, and smiled. “You have the best kid,” she said. “He is so nice and sweet. Just the best.”

The ride home was full of fart and laughter. I managed to hold my own.

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