The leaves changed colours, and the princes got another year older. With his five years, Shark Boy had learned to swim, skate, ski and ride, as well as negotiate one new bedtime story per night. His reading, writing and numbers were coming along, thanks to the Academy.
They celebrated the birthdays in an Enchanted Forest, and the celebration was glorious. They were joined by friends from their old school and from the new, as well as other friends the Royal Family had gathered over the years.
They ate cake (one of the best the King had ever tasted), and played among the bridges, tunnels, towers and slides of the enchanted forest.
One of the King’s favourite moments of the entire day was when he helped the Lightning Kid and another little princess climb the steps of a tree tower - their legs were too short to get up these steps unassisted. The King figured if he stayed close at hand, they couldn't get themselves into too much trouble - even if they were too small for this particular tower.
What he hadn't figured on, was being greeted by another princess, half-way up the tower. You see, this princess had something special about her - her legs didn't work as well as most children’s do. Having a body that was differently abled hadn't stopped her from climbing, and certainly wasn't going to stop her from delighting herself or others - a story that has been told here many times before, but in a different way.
While birthdays have moments that are sweet - there is also the bitter; the King and Queen couldn't help but be wistful. Their babies were not really babies anymore and becoming less so as days, weeks, and months went by.
A child like the Lightning Kid could make these feelings seem very conflicting. On the one hand, they wanted him to grow - physically larger, for one thing. They also wanted growth in development - so that toilet training, mealtime behaviour, speech and communication could improve. At the same time, the nostalgia for the baby age was there, only much stronger. The King often carried the Lightning Kid, even when it wasn't necessary, or helped him get dressed more than he should - rather than helping him learn to do it on his own. He did this because it was the known, the routine, the most expedient. When the Lightning Kid was a newborn baby, he wasn't any different than another newborn - and the older he got, the more differences, the more unknowns could crop up. It was both scary and delightful how much fun he still got from playing peek-a-boo...
Three is a difficult, rebellious age, and the Lightning Kid would be the last of the King and Queen's children, so could you blame them for clinging on to the last vestiges of his infancy? Yes, you could. Growth does not come from comfort zones, and as long as they were going to wish for him to be strong, happy and independent one day, the Lightning Kid's parents would have to sacrifice their secure feelings and comfortable routines for new uncertainties - such is the nature of adventure.
Knowing this, however, does nothing to dull yearning for the past nor fear of the future.