The quiet of growing up

As if I needed any more reason not to clean…

On Friday I cleaned out my closet, a catch-all storage over the last half year for everything from clothes to bags to Fred’s toys when I needed to take them away from him. Within the first five minutes of entering this black hole I found the following “interview” I had taken in my notebook three-and-a-half years ago, shortly after Fred had turned six. Funny how I had thought nothing of his words then.

While reading it Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World also happened to be playing on Pandora and within a couple of minutes I had to switch the station. It was too much. (If you want the full effect you can click on the link above and listen to the song while reading my post, though I will totally understand if you are not awash in the same nostalgia and bittersweet melancholy that I was.)

Things I’ve Learned Now That I’m 6 [by Fred, and dictated by Mom]

Bugs don’t live that long.

This is something that I knew when I was 5: The earth spins around and around and around.

People make books.

Some people are strong, some people are smart.

Some babies write on books for the library or something.

Babies don’t know ABCs until they read a book on ABCs.

My dad can go fast.

Dads can read books.

My dad can do origami.

The grown-ups cook and the kids eat.

It’s not good to fight.

I love my mom and dad.

It’s not good to lie.

5 x 5 = 20.

6 x 2 = 12.

9 x 2 = 18.

If you use a magnifying glass, you can see bugs very well.

The sun is very hot. You would not want to live on the sun.

Making things makes your bones strong.

You can get hurt when you play a sport.

Some bugs like wet.

Flowers or any kind of plants die if you don’t water it. Almost everybody knows that.

If you tear a paper, you can’t put it back without tape or glue.

And in his writing:Β 

If you bracke a promas then that persen will be mad.

If you have 1 one pensle and you bracke it: you will have to buy another pensle.


At the time I thought it was cute, mundane…if anything I remember wishing he would come up with something deeper than how bugs look under a magnifying glass. But now having reached the median of my active duty as a mother, I appreciate this innocent list as a glimpse into my child’s world during the year he started school, when he was taking cause and effect and rules and being a good person to a next level, as well as admiring Daddy. There will never be another list like it.

I don’t see Fred growing in the way that I used to, when change meant such drama as going from traveling on all fours to walking upright. Nowadays I catch it in the quiet and in passing – the sighting of small wads of hair in the recycling bin because he has decided to fix his haircut by himself, or when I look up from my cutting board one evening to answer a question and realize that I need to raise my head higher now in order to meet his eyes. Β I see it if I take the time to peer into and appreciate his world, a world that is constantly shifting, changing, growing, at a speed now so steady we can hardly feel it, not unlike the rotation of our planet or the blooming of a flower when we water it.

15 thoughts on “The quiet of growing up

  1. I LOVE this, especially the beautiful details in the last paragraph (the tilt of your head when you look up) and the wonderful metaphor of the last sentence that loops back to what came before in a new and beautiful way. I love it.

    • Thanks so much, Sarah! I really appreciate that. I was happy to have found a link between what I wanted to say and what my son said in his list. I struggled with the second to last paragraph though and am still not satisfied with it.

      Thanks as always for reading!

  2. What a list! Such innocent, sweet observations – it’s wonderful that you still have it and can glean from it what Fred used to be like at that age.

    And you’re right, the milestones become less overt over time. Subtle shifts from what they were yesterday, but without the fanfare can sometimes go unnoticed. My 4yo learned to whistle, and my 2yo, who desperately wants to as well admitted, “Me want to whistle too, but me too little,” and I realized, even something as simple as whistling marks the passage of time.

    • Your little one is too adorable…I know she has a good role model in her big sister. Yes, a lot of times now it’s the simple things, and they are so easy to miss if you’re not looking.

  3. Oh, my heart. This is beautiful. Such a wonderful keepsake for you and him. And I love your take on it, too. The passage of each stage, each moment so quick and so very different from the one before and after. I love this. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. I absolutely adore this. I actually played What A Wonderful World while reading Fred’s list (it happens to be my wedding day first dance song).

    There is so much beauty in a child’s innocent and ordinary observations. And there is so much wisdom there too. This was so poignant and I am glad we all are benefitting by your cleaning spree. I think I might take a cue from you and do the same exercise with my daughter. Thanks, Cecilia for sharing this.

    • Ha ha, I love this comment, Rudri. I love that you played the song and that it was also a part of your wedding! (It’s beautiful but it always leaves me with uncomfortably nostalgic feelings….)

      You’re right that there is both innocence and wisdom in our children’s words. I hope you enjoy “interviewing” your daughter too.

  5. I love this post and I love his list! I need to do this with my 6 yr old stat so I can find it in a few years and get weepy (ours would totally get lost in my closet too). Did you keep the questions you asked him?

    • Ha ha (keep your list in a safe place!)!
      You know, I don’t have the questions I asked him and now that I think about it I can’t remember at all how I went about pulling all of that out of him. I followed up that same night I found the list and interviewed him again, and realized how hard it was. I think it was probably a lot of prompting, like, “What’s an interesting fact for you? What is something you found out that was really new or fun?” or something. Good luck!

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