In the car, we talk about the special things a kid can do when he turns six. “You can join little league and play baseball,” I tell him. “Or be in the big kid gymnastics.”
“What else?” He asks.
“Well, once you turn six, you have to use your own metro card.”
He gasps. “I can have my very own metro card? Can we go get it right now?”
“We’re on our way to school,” I laugh. “And besides. You’re not six until tomorrow.”
Wheat Bug doesn’t know is that I have already bought him a SmarTrip card and that I am heading to Staples on my lunch break to find a sleeve and a retractable clip just like the one he is always trying to steal out of my purse.
“What else can I do when I’m six?”
“Well, there are probably new rides you can go on at the amusement park. And I think you can use some of the big-kid high ropes elements at camp.”
“When I’m six, can I drink mouthwash?”
“Can you what?
“I mean,” he says in that exaggerated don’t-be-a-doofus tone kids master far too early, “can I use mouthwash.”
“Do you know how to use it?” This whole conversation has taken an unexpected turn. Since so many of ours do, I suppose I should stop being surprised by these detours. On a recent commute, I found us in a very detailed conversation about breast cancer. I had to puzzle out how to explain cell mutation in response to my kid’s increasingly complex questions.
We are nearing school now. From the back seat, he says, “Yeah. To use mouthwash, you kind of swish it around and gargle it and then you spit it out.”
“That’s a pretty cool thing to do when you’re six, huh?”
“Yep,” he says.
“Okay. If you want to, you can start using mouthwash.”
His grin lights up the rearview mirror. “Yay, yay, yay!”
We turn into the Chicken School parking lot, and we are jostling backpacks and kissing goodbye and rushing off to the next thing.
Later that night, after we have made the brownies for school, put on jammies, and opened a couple of birthday-eve gifts (including a Nerf football and Lego mining truck that arrived special-delivery at bedtime by Giovanni), we head in to brush teeth. Bug is bouncing out of his skin, hopped up on brownie batter and anticipation. When we are all done, I pick up the blue bottle of mouthwash next to the sink.
“You ready to try it?”
Bug darkens and backs away. “No.” His expression is grim.
“I thought this was a special deal for six-year-olds,” I say.
“Yeah, but Mom, my birthday is not until tomorrow.”
“Ah.” I set the bottle back down. Bug relaxes. “No reason to rush things, huh?”
“Yeah,” he says. He is already out the door.
No reason to rush.
Right. We’ll keep trying to remember that one.