He holds his hand out to me like a gift, shaking with excitement over the treasure he’s found in the depths of a well-worn jetty from which I’ve had to extract him. Nestled comfortably in his palm is a tiny sea-star, and Zach proclaims it must be a “baby”, and looks at me eagerly as he asks if we can keep it.
Since it would be cruel (and the extent of our pet situation at home is limited to fish) I tell him no, that we’ll release her when he’s ready and let her return to her family. He sighs but clearly understands, sliding his newfound friend into our bucket and joyfully running off to find someone with whom to share his loot.
A month ago, this denial of acquisition would have resulted in a tantrum of magnificent proportions.
My boy is emotional, as five-year-olds often are, and over the past year I’ve seen a great deal of these episodes stem from transitional situations. This summer has brought with it a great deal of changes, new paths forged that seem monumental even to his mother. First, there was saying goodbye to his incredible pre-school teacher of two-and-a-half years.
Next was leaving his old camp behind and trying a new one better suited to him, with brand new kids and teachers to boot. Now kindergarten looms, and although we talk about it frequently and he’s already explored the facility and met his teachers, I know the transition weighs mightily on his soul.
As it does on his mother’s.
The truth is however that he has matured greatly over the span of a season, an alteration in personality for which I do not feel I can take credit. He seems able to reign himself in more easily, can contemplate options that do not necessarily lead to exactly what he wants at that exact moment.
Zach is far more willing to share whatever bounty he is luxuriating in at the moment, whether it’s Phineas and Ferb books, a coveted sword, or (sometimes) his favorite veggie sticks snacks. My youngest son seems to have made his own mental shift, that to get what he wants, he needs to give of himself too.
And I couldn’t be more proud.
I watch as he inserts himself on soggy sand between two pre-teen girls, holding up his swaying bucket in such a way that his desire to share cannot be denied. They congratulate him on his find and tell him that they themselves put this sea creature amongst these rocks from a prior location, and that discovering it was meant to be.
He smiles at them in wonder, pauses, and offers them back his five-legged find and mostly means it.
I am so proud.
The lovely burgeoning child-women politely decline, and I see a satisfied smile illuminate his face, as he rushes back up sloping sand to me. “We can keep her for a while mom, then we’ll give her back to the sea!” he says gleefully, and I tell him it’s a plan.
In this season of sun there’s been so much growth, new potential revealed. I’ve witnessed it joyfully, can’t wait to watch it spill over to new friends and experiences in the fall. Zach switches his bucket from one hand to the next, and slides his free one into mine.
And I know for this child, good things will come.