Now WT is six

June 28th, 2012  |  Tags: , ,  |  3 Comments


Yesterday you ran down to my home office, excited about a stop-motion Lego movie you were making upstairs, and blurted out that when “we put it on YouTube,” people would see it and say “that’s pretty cool, because the guy who made it is still kind of little.” I hope to shield you from YouTube commenters for as long as possible, Thomas, even though you’re slightly less little today than you were yesterday.

Happy birthday, buddy. It’s been a great year, and you’re not just “pretty cool” in your age group; you’re a strong contender overall. Here are just a few of my favorite memories from your time as a five-year-old.

First day of kindergarten Last day of kindergarten

You started kindergarten this year, and you really impressed us with your ever-growing maturity. (Although, as happens universally, you did bring home some bad habits, unfortunate alternate lyrics to traditional tunes, and numerous stomach bugs.) You loved your teachers, your friends, and your school. While at school, you got a lot better at penmanship; you amazed us with your capacity for music, Bible study, art, and math, which you dismissed as “just puzzles and activities” because it came so naturally to you. You finally admitted that you knew how to read and now you read everything. Much to your mother’s dismay, you also can spell quickly enough that she and I can’t spell aloud to make our conversations covert any more, even if we’re discussing whether or not to schedule a p-e-r-a-m-b-u-l-a-t-i-o-n to the f-r-o-z-e-n c-o-n-f-e-c-t-i-o-n r-e-t-a-i-l-e-r.

I’ve wistfully observed the gradual erosion of your youthful malapropisms, although “mudstache” (for the facial hair on one’s upper lip) persists, and “manataur” (for, I imagine, a mythical labyrinth monster with the body of a man and the head of, well, a man?) is a fairly recent coinage. These all, though, have not been mere mistakes; rather, they have reflected your facility for and playfulness with language. A delightful example of these traits is the way you referred to anyone older than you at school as “graders,” coarsely approximating the particular ages of the kids, e.g., that were playing football with you at recess.

Your joy in intellectual play doesn’t stop with language. You’ve awed both of your parents with your self-devised shortcuts for addition and multiplication (and amused us by asking if you could take your “favorite calculations to bed” after playing with a paper-tape calculator at your grandparents’ house). While your spatial and mathematical sophistication is impressive, I’m truly in awe of the philosophical and theological capacity of a five-year-old who asks me if “our DNA is like a computer program, we are like computers, and God is like a person.” I’ll have to work hard to keep you on your toes as a six-year-old!

Spring Sing

This was the year that your hobbies really took off. You built some amazing things out of Legos this year and you actually studied Lego technique to take the restrictor plate off of your creativity and make your models sturdier and bigger than ever before. I got you a classical guitar this spring and you eagerly learned a few chords; you’ve probably already eclipsed your Dad’s skill-to-equipment ratio as a result. You’ve also been having a lot of fun taking pictures and learning how to capture scenes that you care about in the way that you see them.

Your Mom and I were pleasantly surprised to see you regain some of the sense of culinary adventure you had as a tiny kid: your favorite restaurant is now the Indian buffet next door to your school, and you’ve cautiously started to love real food at home. (Regarding the former: the first time I took you there for lunch, knowing you liked tandoori chicken and rogan josh from times I’d made them at home, I was totally unprepared for your exuberant reaction, which included loudly lamenting that you’d just filled out a questionnaire at school about your favorite food without mentioning “Indian food.”)

Ready to swim

“If things that involve looking at screens don’t count, I think biking is my favorite thing.”
—W. Thomas Benton, February 2012

We’ve always known that you’d really enjoy individual sports, and this year you started to get excited about pushing yourself to go faster and farther. You did your first pair of kids’ runs, learned to ride a two-wheeled bike in an unseasonably warm Madison January, completed your first triathlon before I had completed mine, and have just started practicing with the neighborhood swim team. You and I rode together on a single-speed tandem out to the Grumpy Troll brewpub in Mt. Horeb, WI (20 miles away); this was technically my idea, but once you heard the suggestion you wouldn’t let it go. It was a lot of fun, and you’ve been since asking me when we’re going to get a real tandem and do the Horribly Hilly Hundreds together (“when I am nine?”)

Flag football

One of our unexpected delights this year, though, has been seeing how you’ve really blossomed at team sports. You had a somewhat rough indoor soccer season last winter, with not a little freelancing and — occasionally — radically subjective “house rules.” At times, you wanted to play keeper just so you could stand still and think about other things, so I got to watch your goalkeeping tactics evolve from lying across the mouth of the goal and hoping for low shots to madly gesticulating and shouting like you were trying to intimidate a small bear whenever play approached your end of the field. This Spring, though, you really grew to enjoy playing flag football — and by the rules, even. (You had a couple of great runs and crucial blocks, too. The guy in the picture above this paragraph didn’t actually get your flag.) You also enjoyed watching other people play football and soccer; in particular, we had a lot of fun watching the Vikings narrowly lose to the Broncos at the Metrodome with Papa David.

You’ve always been a loving, thoughtful, and caring kid, and you do a great job of letting your parents and sister know that you appreciate and care about them. Maggie is lucky to have such a great big brother, and I’m excited for you to meet the new baby in a few months. Most of all, though, I’m so fortunate to have such an amazing son and (first-)namesake. The first thing you heard after you were born was your Dad, hugging you closely and singing “Lobe den Herren” — this was the only reaction I could muster upon finally being face to face with my amazing son. I’ve been thankful for you every day since, and am glad that I get to ride along on your continuing adventures. Love you, buddy.

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