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Observing childhood phases triggers memories

My child is breezing through all the phases of childhood with what seems like ever-increasing speed. Recently, he received his very first report card, after graduating from kindergarten.

I don't remember receiving any report card until after first grade. All the students in my class stressed out a little over it, gathering around the teacher and anxiously asking if we passed. My mother saved all report cards brought home by both my brothers and me. That's a mom for you.

I find myself falling into the same pattern. I regularly save the artwork my son brings home from school, and I put it up in his bedroom. It resembles a mini art gallery. I need to start taking down his earlier works to make room for his latest pieces. His room is slowly being transformed. Gone is the Winnie the Pooh border. In its place are decorations of his choice, usually superheroes -- Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk -- as well as his Harley Davidson motorcycle sheets and bedspread. His handwriting is dramatically improving every day, and in a display of independence, he made a hand-lettered sign eerily indicating the teen years, which I know will come one day. The sign says, "do not enter, do not come in."

He is zooming around on his bike with no training wheels, racing up and down the street. I try my best to stay calm, constantly reminding him to look both ways, watch for traffic, and don't ride in the middle of the street. His dad gets nervous watching, rather like the overprotective father fish in the kid's movie "Finding Nemo." I pace up and down the middle of the street, monitoring traffic at both ends and yelling out when a vehicle is approaching.

The other day, someone at work was kind enough to give me a pair of Lightning McQueen child's sunglasses. My son loved them. We put them with his two pairs of Spiderman shades, and when he wears a pair, along with what he calls his "muscle shirt," he looks like Joe Cool himself. His fashions are beginning to mirror his dad's, and his closet is getting more and more sports jerseys on the clothes hangers. When he dons a baseball cap over his curly mop of hair, he looks quite the sports enthusiast.

Every time I turn around, the boy is outgrowing another article of clothing, or tearing up another pair of shoes. He used to have a nice suit someone gave him, but I think he only wore it once before it had to be retired. Forget about wearing ties for very long. When we went to his cousin's wedding, he agreed to wear a tie until the end of the ceremony. At least we kept it on him for an hour, before it got yanked off.

After finishing the 2010 season playing on the Pee Wee Yankees baseball team, there is talk, I hear, of my kid being "picked up" by another team to play fall ball. Then, of course, every so often I hear talk of him playing football. We'll see what develops. I worry about him being buried under a pile of kids after being tackled, but I guess that's a normal thing for moms to fret over.

As for his eating habits, I think when he finally decides he likes vegetables, I'll faint from surprise. Every time I offer him a bite of whatever veggie I'm eating, hoping he'll get curious and try a bite, he is highly insulted. Just like me when I was that age, he's a picky eater. I would refuse to eat anything on my plate that smelled, looked or tasted different. Now I know what my mother went through.

But it's all good. I'll savor these fleeting moments, knowing that in what seems like the blink of an eye, he'll be all grown up and gone.

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.