At five years old, he still loves to be hugged.

He hates balloons, loud noises, and unfamiliar foods. He’s not too sure about dogs.

He loves spaceships, rockets, motorcycles, and guns. He loves the idea of the Blue Angels but not so much the earsplitting scream of their presence. He loves Legos, and he can build anything.

He loves to argue. He loves to dawdle. He loves to push boundaries. He loves to be praised.

He loves his brother. He loves his family. He loves to run and jump and yell. He moves through the world with everything set to eleven. He is a wide-open flower tilted to catch as much sun as possible.

At five years old, he’s outgrown my ability to describe him. I paint a tiny corner of his ever-expanding picture and it’s never enough.

I can only tell you how much I love him. That’s an easy story to tell.












Five today. All the fingers of a hand, spread wide.

It feels like the last truly summery day of summer and I suggest a post-dinner trip to the aquatic center. Once we arrive, it’s clear that every other family within a 20-mile radius has had the same idea: the kiddie pool teems with froth and squeals, splashes and shrieks.

Most of the parents lounge poolside, chatting with one another while their older children attack each other in the water. JB and I reluctantly submerge ourselves and settle into the task of keeping an eye on Dylan while ducking flying water toys, thrashing kicks, and careening inflatables.

Everywhere I look there is a wet blonde head, churning movement, a flash of goofily-colored swim trunks. Riley calls from a few feet away to look at him, look at him. I wipe stinging chlorine from my eyes after a little girl practices her kicking next to me. Dylan is giggling and bouncing around and sometimes he slips off his feet but catches himself, flailing back upwards.

Then, suddenly, he falls and can’t push himself up. He is, for a brief and utterly horrifying moment, immobile: his legs dangling down and slightly behind him, his upper body floating, his face in the water.

In Suzanne Finnamore’s Otherwise Engaged, she refers to what her friend Jill calls a Grand Klong: a sudden rush of shit to the heart. “A Grand Klong is when you look in your rearview mirror and you see the police car.”

Your child, floating facedown in a pool, is most definitely a Grand Klong.

I scramble to my feet, scraping against the concrete steps and peeling a strip of skin off my back, and yank Dylan up and out. He splutters and briefly rubs a fist against his eye, then laughs and squirms, eager to get back down.

He’s off again, happy and upright, and I’m sagged against the side of the pool, chest hammering. I shake my head at JB, who looks back at me and grimly nods. Parenthood. Jesus.

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