Not long ago, Ethan got in the car after preschool and made a devastating announcement.
"Mom, I really think I need a cooler backpack."
I almost had to stop the car. It was something I was totally unprepared to hear.
Cooler? Cooler? Where on earth did my sweet four year old get a hold of that concept? Thomas the Tank Engine, who had steadfastly carried him through the last year of school, was apparently no longer cutting it. He now needed, and I quote, a "yellow Bumblebee Transformer" backpack. Suffice it to say I know nothing of these Transformers he speaks of. We have no Transformers in this house yet; clearly, he learned about them at school.
In the interest of fairness, Ethan might not really understand what "cool" means; he recently refused to wear a certain sweater to school, saying it was "too cool" and that he definitely needed something less cool to wear.
But the backpack incident got me thinking nonetheless. When does that edge start to creep into little boys' lives and erode the pure sweetness that suffuses their early years?
I will confess I'm secretly proud that Ethan's affections are still un-selfconsciously baby-ish. He laughs out loud at Elmo. (He'll still watch Elmo, for crying out loud.) He harbors no particular affinity for Superheroes, or at least no more so than any other character. He asks to hold my hand in public, telling me it "makes him really happy" and makes pronouncements like, "I love my pajamas sooooooooo much!" without so much as a second thought. He wears goofy winter hats with pompoms that make him look so adorable I want to cry.
I harbor no illusions that this is a permanent state. In fact, I hope it's not a permanent state. I'm reminded of my friend Ann, who gently tried to dissuade her son from his adamant assertion that he needed to wear ties every day to kindergarten. Nobody wants their son to be that kid.
But when do little boys cross that line? Is it a gradual process, or do they one day just take a flying leap to cooler pastures and leave Elmo and pompom hats flapping in the breeze?
Whichever it is, given my current obsession with living in the moment, I'm going to remember to savor the Elmo days, and try not to think too hard about those Transformers looming on the horizon.
I tell Ethan all the time that I love him more than all the grains of sand on all the beaches in the world. Not long ago he told me that he loves me more than all the crabs on all those beaches. It's not exactly poetic, but you get the drift. And I'll take it while I can.