Monday, July 6, 2009

The Roughshod Guide to Being Five

Congratulations! Now that you're almost five years old, there are all sorts of things you can do and understand for yourself. Your motor skills are now sophisticated enough to hold you in place for a good five seconds after spinning yourself around for the entire length of your favorite song. This is a triumph, despite all the puking. Don't worry; that's a trait that's harder to kick, and just when you think you've got it, you discover frat parties and the associated hazards of bed spins (not to mention date rape.)

Now that you're almost five, it's time for you to grasp the concept of the movie sequel. When Beethoven's Second is on the Disney Channel, wonder if you should disqualify yourself from watching it because you never saw "Beethoven's One." (See The Roughshod Guide to Being Six, wherein you'll work on disqualifying it from your movie lineup because, let's face it, there really weren't that many unanswered questions from the original, except why John Hughes would dare write such a thing, even under a synonym. Yes, why, John Hughes? Why would you do this to us? After the pedestal my generation put you on for Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club.)

Another thing, now that you're approaching the age of five: Whatever agreements may transpire between you and another person, get them in writing, even with family. Especially with family. Specifically, when your dad tells you you can visit him at work on Wednesday, seal the deal and avoid breach of contract by having him write it down, and include the words, "I really, really seriously mean it." Secure your own representation in the matter by having your mom read the writing loud, word for word, to prevent any misunderstandings. Just because you can't read very well yet doesn't make you a sucker.

When dealing with life's injustices, look inside yourself for the answers. When the sky falls, paint a new one. Look to the example of your neighborhood friends, the brother-sister duo who are tortured and subjected nightly, as are you, to the horrors of--gasp--Going to Bed at a Reasonable Hour. Separated by their respective bedroom doors, and the acres of hallway between them, the brother and sister called out to each other for comfort. After the young one, the sister, pressed her face to the bottom crack of the door and told her brother, "I'm so sad," her brother, as wise as only an almost-five-year-old can be, counseled her. "Do something you love!" he trumpeted through the solid core of his own door.

Begin to grasp the power of death. Realize it's permanent, which is, for your mother, about the length of an episode of The Wiggles. Realize that not only does it last forever, but that it's the one force in the universe powerful enough to make cat ownership possible. The next time you ask for a cat, and are reminded that you can never have one because of your father's allergies, ask about what would happen if Daddy happened to die. Could you have one then?

Finally, begin to recognize facial cues, however subtle they may be, and interpret their meanings. Be able to predict, simply by looking at your mother's face, when she's about to cry. While this skill comes in handy later, say, when you're able to leave the house by yourself (see The Roughshod Guide to Being Five and a Half) and get the hell out of Dodge the minute things get heavy, what's more important is learning to feel empathy and compassion for the other person. Because usually, when your mother makes the "I'm going to lose it" face, it's because she's realized there's no more gin in the house. (See also: Neilsen, Brigitte.)

Stay tuned and join us for future Roughshod Guides, coming soon, including The Roughshod Guide to Sneaking Out in the Middle of the Night to Meet Your Gay Boyfriend, and Running for Student Council on the "My Boobs are on Facebook" Platform: a Roughshod Guide Supplemental.