Swish, whooosh, whooooooooosh. 

Whispery yet distinct. In hushed but urgent tones.

Hoooo. Shwah. Yeeeeeeah.

A shadow quickly runs by, caught just a fleeting moment out of the corner of my eye. A blur.

And then he comes into my field of vision. And he is focused. He is ready.

For combat.

He is my son, the ninja.

And today he turns six.

On his last birthday, ninja mania did not rule my house. It was all about pirates and “Aaaaargh” and treasure chests and gold doubloons. That was a welcome break from the previous two years of intense Thomas the Train devotion — which was approaching card-carrying cult member status. I never thought I’d miss Thomas because, honestly, I think he’s annoying and sort of a whiner. But a few weeks ago, my son was going through some of his old trains and, to my total astonishment, he held up an old favorite and asked the unthinkable.

“What is the name of this train?”

I blinked audibly.

“That’s PERCY! You remember Percy!”

Faint signs of recognition hinted in his eyes: “Yeah, sort of.”

I almost feared that he was having a neurological episode of sorts.

“He’s the mail car. Thomas’ best friend. REMEMBER?”

I thought I was having an out-of-body experience. This child, two years ago, would have taken a fucking bullet for Percy. And now, he shrugged off the wimpy green #6 train and set him aside with little to no interest.

“Do you think that ninjas always train with swords?”

And in that moment, he looked so big to me. Had I not been trapped in that wave of nostalgia, I may have taken the opportunity to finally purge my home of the 7,894-piece Thomas collection. {But then you know that would guarantee this next baby would be a boy. And then I’d be here in two years, writing about how stupid I was to ditch everything from the bloody Island of Sodor.}

These days, my son seems so busy. Not because I fill his days with activities, but because his mind is always racing. Always storytelling. Always asking to know more. Always assuming the Playtime Rules Management role over his sister.

“You can be a princess but take this sword back to your castle. I’ll be the ninja who defends your kingdom. Don’t call me by my name. Call me Sensei.”

He is a creature of routine and does best knowing what comes next and when. But he is also thrilled with the intrigue of surprises.

He is equal parts ornery and sweet, and I see him trying his best to balance that out. Some days he does better than others.

He is serious and hysterically silly. Methodical and also carefree.

He’s not too old to hug me without reservation yet. Not too old to have me wipe away his tears. I know this will change someday. But not today.

But other things changed. Like the birthday party dynamics. For example, I heard this for the first time:

“No girls. Just boys at my party. Except my sister. And you. And if the baby in your belly is a girl, she can come too.”

And I changed things up this year, too.

In a break with tradition, I have opted to embrace my baking shortcomings and not stress myself the hell out over making a memorable birthday cake. One that, in exchange for a few Pinterest-worthy moments, would take incremental years off of my life. Simply put, I don’t think my 33rd week of pregnancy is conducive to such an endeavor. Mostly because I would eat more frosting than I would apply to the finished product.

{And also, a ninja cake is way outside of my wheelhouse.}

And so I made a phone call this week that was nothing short of spectacularly freeing.

“Hello, Shop Rite? I’d like to order a birthday cake. Yeah, with ninjas.”

Swish. Whoooosh. Heeeyaaaah.

No sign of Thomas the Train anywhere.

This boy. Long and lean and less of a baby by the day. And yet, still only six.

Happy Birthday to my first child, who taught me how to be a mom.

I couldn’t possibly love him more.




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  1. Karin says:

    This was wonderful, Kim. Congratulations on your 6th anniversary of becoming a Mom. And a very happy birthday to your wonderful first born.

  2. Markus says:

    Six? Really? Six? Wow! He’s taught you very well how to be a mom!

    Give the little man a hug from his Uncle Punkus….that is if he still remembers his favorite uncle!

  3. Beautiful piece. 6 does seem so grown-up. Riding the very fine line between little kid and BIG kid. Also, may I just say, poor Percy.

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