Dear sweet Jack,
Happy birthday to you!
Your letter is a day late, but because you are still too young to read it, I think I’ll get away with it. Yesterday you had one of the best days of your life. Your birthday fell on a Saturday, so you had presents and a party all at once. Last year your birthday party was rained out by a torrential deluge. The magician still performed, but we were squashed in our small house, and you were upset that there wasn’t much free play. I was nervous to chance September storms again, but we did, and after a week of thunderstorms and giant puddles, the sky opened up to bright blue sunshine, and it was perfect.
Most of your friends came to your dinosaur party and you all goofed off in the Pteranadon Trampoline, the Plesiosaur Pool and the Stegosaurus Slip and Slide (actually, we were having so much fun, we forgot to turn that one on). There was a Dinosaur Dig in my garden and you found toy dinosaurs by melting blocks of ice and smashing open clay dinosaur eggs. We made a papier maché volcano and literally had a blast erupting it. Best of all was you, happy and running everywhere. You are beloved not only by your family, but also by your friends and their parents.
Everyone loves Jack.
That tickles me to no end. Tickles is a great word for who you are: a world class goofball with a sharp mind and generous heart. I have dozens of pictures of you with a silly look on your face, and still more in wacky outfits, some of which would be considered indecent in mixed company. (You mooned the camera on the beach!) Every month you have a new catch phrase delivered in a funny voice. You’ve taken to calling me (and most other people) bébé or dude. A day doesn’t pass without your declaring something AWESOME.
Your sharp mind takes center stage at school. Your kindergarten teacher commented on your progress report that she relied upon you to know the answers when the rest of the class was stumped. A classmate of yours complained to her mom that you are even smarter than her. Your handwriting is impeccable, although pretty soon you’re going to have to drop the habit of spacing your words with your index finger. You are amazing with math and frequently make up triple digit addition problems on a white board for fun. You are also good at reading, although a lack of confidence is your occasional foil. You detest making mistakes and learning to read means mispronunciations are par for the course. Over the past year you have slowly but surely worked your way out of embarrassment and are reading quite well. You constantly inform us about your observations and conclusions. You are truly wonderful, meaning full of wonder. I love that!
I was afraid your love of school might get bruised when you entered first grade two weeks ago. You wore your identity as a kindergartener like a cloak of happiness. Max’s hobby of whining about homework made you think first grade would be hard, and the night before you started, you expressed trepidation. Also, two of your best friends moved, so I knew you would miss them. But when I picked you up, the smile you shone was so bright it made me blink tears. You declared first grade AWESOME, even better than kindergarten. You got to be line leader on the first day which was a very big deal in your little life. Like I told you last year, school is the place where you will always find success.
Now on to your generous heart, the one everyone loves. You are kind, funny, and bursting with ideas. You are expressive, affectionate, and polite. What more could I ask for? You are very popular at school, not because you are super cool, but because you’re a really good person. Your teachers always tell me that you are a natural leader, but include everyone’s ideas in your plans. I’ve seen you do that at the playground too, create a game, but be open to changing it. Not very many people can do that with grace, my love. It’s a true gift.
You divide people into two categories, best buddies and friends. How sweet is that? When some boys in your class started bullying a friend, I was proud that you didn’t join in and managed to remain friends with everyone. Of course, as family, we get the best of your love. You give me unprompted kisses and hugs all day long. How many pictures and notes have you given me strewn with hearts, rainbows, and I ♥ U!s? Daddy has crept into your heart more this year than ever, but I don’t mind. Love is not a finite resource, rather it’s infinite and self-replenishing. As I reach the door of your bedroom at night, you usually call out to me, “Good night, sweetheart. I love you.”
Back at ya, babe.
One thing that has continued to puzzle me is that you don’t always show your clownish, expressive side. In school performances and, apparently, in circle time, you barely move your lips and hands, a stark contrast to your home life where you constantly tote musical instruments and a microphone around. With us, you sing, make up songs, and have wild dance moves (there is even a specific splash pad dance). I wonder if you will always have these two sides of your personality, or if your kindergarten teacher made a mistake by burying you, the shortest kid, in the back row at concerts. I challenged you to make your new teacher laugh on the first day of school, and another mom texted me that you had the entire class in stiches from a joke when she dropped off her son. I don’t know if it’s wrong to encourage you to be the class clown, but I want you to be who you are. Always.
I recently realized that despite my best efforts, we may have let you be shadowed by your older brother. You just joined your first sport team, cross country. I run the stopwatch at practice. I wasn’t surprised when Max was the first elementary student to finish a mile, but my jaw dropped when you were the second. You are the youngest and shortest kid on the team, but you beat 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. Daddy said your soccer skills are better than Max’s when he was your age. You practice drills often, and have the grit of a younger brother always trying to catch a moving target. You might not see it now, but that determination from constant striving will be a great blessing. I think we have underestimated your building ability too. Overnight it seems that you became a Lego master builder, and of course, your wooden block structures are legendary. If I have not always appreciated your talents, I am truly sorry.
There is one thing that breaks your heart, and it breaks mine too. When you and Max argue, he tells you that he is a better person than you, and this is an arrow to the center of your being. Of course, he knows this and chooses it when he is angry. You come to me in tears, and I always have to reassure you that Max is bananas. He usually chirps in with proof that he is better (bigger, faster, older), but sometimes he cries about you telling him you won’t be his friend. That is his Achilles’ heel, and you target it when scorned. At this point I can’t regulate everything between you two, so I keep hoping you will treat each other well. Still, what makes you doubt your goodness? How can you possibly question your value? We all have struggles and I guess this is yours, but it boggles my mind how you could believe for even a second that you don’t measure up. How can the sun doubt its light?
Oh, you human being. Full and whole.
Yesterday we celebrated your life with such joy and surrender, a fitting way to honor you, the person who has taught me how to surrender to joy. For 6 years, 40 weeks, and 1 day, you have brought and taught me happiness. You are my living, breathing smile.
I love you, sweetheart.
P.S. Your fashion slays me.