A sixth birthday can be somewhat daunting. I mean, it’s the first one that you will probably remember for the rest of your life. You’re in school, too, so you’ve got little school friends who are actually your friends as opposed to children of your parents’ friends. And because you’re in school it behooves you to throw a party so all of your newfound friends can come and enjoy themselves on your parents’ dime.
My children have been no different. When Alexa turned six we threw a huge party for her and her kindergarten friends at the local movie theater. It was an extravaganza featuring large foam truffula trees, pinning the moustache on the Lorax, and lots of cheap pizza. Then it was movie time, with popcorn, drinks, and 3D glasses that were supposed to make things cooler but just complicated it. Imagine twelve six-year-olds fumbling for their glasses throughout the movie because they kept slipping off.
Madeline just flipped the calendar past six years old and her first official party was at the Family Fun Factory, a snazzy place with bounce houses, fun carnival-type games, an air hockey table, and party rooms to help corral the kids when it’s time for cake. And it was so exciting to see her with her little friends, enjoying all of the activities, taking turns, and being her rousing self. I guess that’s because six isn’t just an age of remembrance, but it’s also an age of maturation. When they turn six they’re not our little toddlers anymore. They’re on their way to middle school in a godawful hurry.
Six years old is the time when first best friends come and go, when everything is full of drama, and when you realize the world is a little bit bigger than just your house and neighborhood. I look at Madeline now and I can see her making so many connections she wasn’t able to make before. She’s speaking in longer sentences, and when she looks at me I can tell her brain is moving so much more quickly than it used to before. She’s growing up in front of my eyes, and that’s what six can do. It’s that shifting time. I saw it with Alexa, and now my youngest is going through it too, and it’s both sad and glorious at the same time.
There are six candles in the drawer, wrapped in cellophane, reminders of that shifting time, of those parties that brought together friends and family, and of our family dynamic changing the way it’s supposed to change. Next year we will add one more candle to the tally as we place them on the new cake, symbolic of so much more. But we will always remember six.