My daughter has a new game, called "a tushy, tushy, tushy." She turns around, wiggles her behind, and cries, "a tushy, tushy, tushy." She is liable to do this at any moment: during dinner, when the UPS guy knocks on the door, when she's supposed to be brushing her teeth.




This is my serious daughter. The one who spends hours drawing elaborate pictures of the sunset over mountains with trees and flowers and long-haired girls in the foreground. The one who comforts her little brother with genuine sympathy when he bangs his head because he was trying to throw a blue plastic chair at her for some imagined slight. The one who taught herself to read almost a year ago and memorizes poetry about apple blossom fairies because well, because she wants to.




What happened? When did my gray-eyed pensive girl become a butt-waggling child whose favorite word is "tushy?"




James knew the answer right away: Athena turned six.




There is something so silly about 6-year-olds. At six kids like to throw back their heads, open their mouths like turkeys trying to catch rainwater and cackle with laughter. At six everything is so funny. Even this sentence, which, when I read it aloud to her, makes her roll on the ground in uncontrollable hysterics. Don't get me wrong. Athena's — 5/6-year-old brother and 8-year-old sister laugh too. But they're only laughing at Athena's glee &

all that unstoppable joy is contagious.




Then there's the bubble blowing in the milk. Athena discovers the glory of the straw. If you blow long and vigorously enough the milk bubbles foam up over the side of the cup, which is, of course, hi-lar-ious. After you start doing it, your brother and sister start doing it also, and Mom, who's busy slapping dinner together, doesn't notice until the volume of giggling reaches a particularly high pitch. that time there's milk everywhere, all over the table, all over your dress, all over the floor. Ut oh.




I hand Athena a sponge and she starts mopping up the mess. Since the sponge gets soaked and she doesn't have the judgment to know to wring it out (when do they learn this? Not, according to my friends with older children, when they're teenagers) what she's really doing is spreading more milk all over the table. Since she's six, and since her little brother's jealous ("No fair! Why does she get to sponge the table?") there's something side-splitting about this too.




James takes our oldest daughter on an overnight camping trip with three other dads and their firstborns. At first Athena's upset that she's too young to come along. But a trip to the water slides where she can catapult down and splash into the pool (I watch her goggle-wearing self &

as she takes the last turn she firmly pinches her nose closed with her fingers &

and see a glimpse of my erstwhile more sober child) makes her forget her disappointment. The next morning she eats nine whole grain pancakes (6-year-olds are hungry creatures) and volunteers to clean the stove.




"Hesperus is going to be sorry she didn't get to do this job!" she cries, anticipating the No Fair Look she's sure to see on her sister's face when she returns.




"Yeah!" shouts her brother who's "sponging" the table.




"Hey Mommy," Athena calls.




"What honey?" I turn around from the sink, where I'm washing dishes.




"A tushy, tushy, tushy!"




's column appears every Monday in the Tidings. She's the author of the award-winning book "Why Babies Do That" (Willow Creek Press) and the editor of "Toddler: Real-Life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love" (Seal Press), which was banned from a sale at Lincoln School. Back from a year in Niger (not Nigeria), West Africa with her family, she is currently working on a book about hippos.