Nov 02 2016
Like the letter to your sister below, this one is somewhat delayed. Very delayed actually. It’s not your birthday, it’s not your half-birthday, I’ve been writing this for months. I just deleted three paragraphs that don’t make sense to who you are anymore. You’re changing rapidly and my letters can’t keep up.
I start and restart my letter to you and wonder why I find it so difficult. The last letter I wrote to you alone was on your 2nd birthday and now you’re a little over three months from 4. Six months after I wrote it, I thought about writing you another one because you had changed so much but time slipped away and it never happened. When I wrote the last letter, you were barely talking. You had the basics, mama, aba, bye, hi, but that was about it. We think back to that Disney World trip when you were 2 and it’s crazy to imagine that you weren’t the full-on talkative kid you would become literally 2 months later. You went from few words to paragraphs in a blink. That sums you up right now: when you go, you go hard.
Jacky, you outshine the morning sun, my son. And if you know what that is a reference to then you probably remember the year (years?) that Sadie, you and me spent completely immersed in the Broadway show Hamilton. The three of us got obsessed with it. I know I led the way but you guys took off on your own Hamiltonian adventures. You wake up on Saturday mornings and pack your backpack to go to George Washington’s house. You talk about Burr killing Hamilton, about Laurens shooting Lee. We discuss how Thomas Jefferson might be the “bad guy” in the story but we don’t see him that way historically. We laugh at that little guy John Adams. We talk about France (Lafayette is our favorite), we talk about England (we love/hate the King). We listen to the soundtrack over and over and you discover new things in the songs that spur discussions. Today it was about the “odds the Gods put us all in one spot” and we got into G-d and whether there is more than one. We quote lines all the time. Your aba is partially sick of it, partially kind of amazed how it’s taken on this life of its own in our world. What’s crazy is how much you and your sister understand. Neither of you can listen to The World Was Wide Enough or Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story (and of course I skip Say No To This and Reynolds Pamphlet). You cried one day, full sobs and tears that you missed Alexander Hamilton after listening to Burr shoot him.
You are really freaking smart, sharp. You always have a comeback. You’re fearless, and this of course is good and bad. You are rarely without a band-aid on some bleeding part of your body. You get older boys to follow you and play your way on the playground. It’s always the funniest watching you lead 9 year olds around. There’s a million things you haven’t done, but just we wait.
You’re so different that it makes these letters much more difficult to write than those to your sister. She’s the sweet girl, gets along with everyone, knows how to manage her affection so no one ever feels left out. You’re much more limited in what you give people. You’re not trying to love the world. You have this crazy magnetism. When you give someone your attention, they melt. “OMG, Jack is talking to me” is something that people actually say out loud.
You’re superhero everything all the time. You’re Batman, you’re Superman. You were a ninja for Halloween and you committed to the part. You got your aba to dress up like a ninja with you too. When I asked him why he was bothering with a costume (we’re not dress-up people) he said “Jack really wants to and I love that little guy” (he didn’t use the word guy but this is a family blog.) When I try to dress you in anything but a shirt with a character on it you tell me “I don’t want to be handsome, I want to be cool.”
The gender divide has always been really stark with you. I’ve written about it before, how you were a little boy before anything else. I mean, you play with dolls. Sort of:
I get often told that your sister is so much like me. And maybe she is. We like the same music, we both are voracious readers, there’s a lot about myself I see in her. But the fact is that you’re a little me too. You’re so headstrong and it drives me crazy but it’s exactly how I was. My parents would try to bribe me to try new foods but I wouldn’t go for it. I say how annoying it is that you eat like 5 things in total but gosh, where did you get that? I may have lived on tuna fish sandwiches in high school, there was a cruise I went on with my parents where I ate nothing but french fries. I tried cream cheese for the first time at 19.
You’re not easy. You’re full of resistance, angles, ideas. “Jacky, sshhhh” is something I say a lot. You’re still the baby of the house even though there is a Jude now. You curl up on me daily, you need your mama more than anyone has ever needed me. I know your siblings love me, and I know you’re all kids so it’s all fluid and changing, but the way you are with me is unique to you.
There’s a lot written (and hey, I’ve written it) about how moms always think they’re failing at everything. They’re not being present enough with their kids, they’re slacking off at work, they’re not taking care of themselves physically, they’re letting friendships wane, marriage slip etc. We’re all sucking all the time. And a lot of that is true for me. I always feel like I should be doing more professionally (how have I not written a book yet!) or that I should be working out, spending more time with your aba or connecting better with friends. But this is the year I kind of rocked it as a mom. I took the month of August to focus exclusively on you and your sister (Jude was happily with his baba and he gets good time with me when you guys are at school) and to really talk to you guys, to spend quality time. And even when August became September and then October and November, I feel like I’m in an awesome place mom-wise and just need to get the other parts of my life working a little better to not feel the overwhelming mom-guilt all the time.
When my time is up, have I done enough? My purpose every day is for you, Sadie and Jude to say yes. I don’t need my story told by anyone else.