We took Wally to a Chili Cookoff, an annual tradition at my in-law’s church. Mostly this has been the kind of event where I try to shove as much cornbread as possible in front of the kids so I can pretend they don’t exist while I enjoy tasting 20 differently flavored chilis. But this year was different. As we sat waiting for the official start, husband Wally explained the process to Wally Ben, who asked about the notepaper on the table—you try various numbered cups of chili and write down your ratings. Then you vote for your favorite at the end, and the person with the most votes is the champion. Eying the cornbread and planning my route around the room, I barely took note of the wheels in 5-year-old Wally’s brain turning. About 10 minutes in as I was trying my 6th chili, my mother-in-law and husband Wally pointed out to me an incredible turn of events—WallyV, my semi-picky anti-spicy boy, was perhaps more into trying, thoughtfully rating, and commenting on each option than me. It was one of my favorite-ever reflections of my likeness to date.

And this happened the same week as another favorite-ever WallyBen moment. He asked for blank paper to make a book, and he created an 8-page classic where different animals ask for different human foods. (This is Chapter 1, the elephant. He wants spaghetti.)



With two favorites in one week, I realized something. I want to freeze him. I’ve never wanted to freeze him at any other age or stage. I’ve loved him to pieces, but I’ve always had something that I’ve found was too much. Baby—too colicky; one—too dependent and needy; two—too tantrumy; 3 and 4—too wild and bite-y and pull-his-pants-down-at-schooly. He was intense in a way that tightened my heart, but that very feature this year at age 5 has exploded into an abundance of imagination, creativity, and humor. I want to stop time.

He’s old enough to feed the dog and let her out. He’s old enough to make up jokes that are kind of funny, like asking me my name, and when I reply “Mommy” he says, “Nice to meet you, Larry!” (Classic intentional mix-up joke—bah!). He is old enough to laugh at the funny mistakes Vivvi makes when she talks—the other day he asked Vivvi her middle name (which came from Husband Wally’s sister) and she said, “Aunt Jane.” Wally Ben found this hilarious. And he not only laughs at things like this, but he makes eye contact with the adult that’s present and then waits until you lock eyes so you can share in the laugh together.

Preschool Wacky Wednesday
Preschool Wacky Wednesday

He’s in this limbo—nearly grown up and still so purely childish. It’s a beautiful in between. I want to stop the forward march into elementary school age because his two year old sister is his best friend and he doesn’t know he can’t marry her. He is not too cool for her yet. I want to stop time because he believes God is in his heart—and because of that he wonders what He eats in there, and if God is in everyone’s heart there must be a lot of Gods, right? I want to stop time because he still needs me to read to him—and reading a chapter of Roald Dahl to him at bedtime is sometimes the best part of my day. I want to stop time because he went to a friend’s rockstar birthday party, and when I picked him up and asked how it was, he said, “Fun.” I asked what he did, and he said, “I don’t remember.” But then a few weeks later, they sent this picture with their thank you card, and when I asked the mom about it, she said the instructions were to rock out for a picture. Well done, little man.

Rock Star

I can freeze him with these pictures. I can freeze him with these words. But time continues its steady march on. Time continues, and still he keeps getting older.

I remember when Wally was a baby, and every month (post-colic) was my new favorite stage. As he rolled over, then sat, then crawled, then called me “Bob Bob,” I’d say, “No, this is my favorite baby age.” I’m hoping parenting a child is the same—you reach a plateau where you can enjoy them, and then your path goes gradually up from there. I’m hoping in a year that I am still saying, “No, this is my favorite age.” But for now, I suppose my best bet is to enjoy him—to listen, to laugh, to take mental pictures. Because I cannot freeze time, but I can slow it down by resting in it. Because kindergarten is only a short trek away. Because he will only be this age once.

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