Jackson at one year
My dearest little boy:
Today is your first birthday, my sweet boy. Earlier today, I was feeling so tired from my treatment on Tuesday that I thought maybe I would wait until tomorrow to write this to you, but as I have learned the hardest way of all when we lost your sister Hudson, there may not always be a tomorrow, so I always have to make sure that you know you are loved today. It’s true that we can’t always live like we have no more days to spend together (although that could be fun in some ways, couldn’t it? Eating birthday cake every day and not just for birthdays?), but we also can’t live like we have endless numbers of days together, because we know that is not to be. There has to be a good middle ground in there somewhere. Although I hope we have many, many, many days together, until I am very, very old and you are old enough to be a grandpa, it is still so important that I always tell you how much I love you, because I don’t ever want a day, or a moment, to pass when you don’t feel that love.
And not only will I tell you all the time, like I do already, but I will show you, too. I will show you in little ways and big ways that you are loved every moment. I will always, always accept you for who you are. I only ever want you to be you, Jackson. I want you to be the best you that you can be, but I only ever want you to be you. And I want you to always know how much I enjoy you. I read something the other day that really spoke to me. It said that one of the most important things a parent can say to her child is, “I love to watch you play” (or read, or sing, or whatever it is that you decide to do). This particular mom shared how much she felt like this took the pressure off of her kids and allowed them to just enjoy their activities and not feel like they constantly have to do something new to please their parents. So I just want to say that to you now: I love to watch you play. Even though your dad and I are like all eager parents of a kid your age—we can’t wait for you to walk and talk and we love watching you do all your little tricks—we also try hard not to push you to do things you aren’t ready for, and most importantly, we try to make sure that you don’t have to please us in order to earn our love and respect. You earn our love and respect just by being our child. We love you and we respect you as your own person just because you are you, and that will never change.
I am nearly certain there will come times when you and I don’t like each other very much, times where you need your space and I don’t want to give it, or times where I have to be firm about something that you think is unnecessary, or lots of other situations where we just don’t see eye-to-eye. I don’t know anything about what it will be like to parent an older child, but having been an older child and teenager myself before, I remember what it was like to feel like I hated my mom. I always knew I didn’t really hate her, but it sure felt like it sometimes. And I’m sure you will feel that way one day, too. And I hope that when those times come, we can weather them without too many hurt feelings. I know it’s hard not to get our feelings hurt, especially when the other person is doing something that is really hard for us to understand or accept, but as I’ve told you before, the best that we can do when those kinds of times come is just try to explain our feelings and to listen and understand each other as well as we can. And in case I forget to tell you one day, I am sorry if I hurt your feelings. I don’t ever mean to. Ever.
It’s hard for me to explain to you just what you have meant to my world in the past year, Jackson. The last time I wrote to you, before you were born, I wanted so much for you to understand that it would never be your job to take your sister’s place or to fill her shoes. I felt so very sorry that you were being born into a world without a living big sister to help you figure out how all this craziness works out here, and I still feel so very sorry about that. It will never be right. She should be here now, getting ready to help decorate your birthday cupcakes and help you eat your penguin smash cake. I am just so sorry, for you and for all of us, that she isn’t here.
And I am sorry that even though it will never be your job to fill Hudson’s shoes, you were born into the world with an unfair burden just the same. We were all so very sad when you sister died—sometimes, it was hard to think we could ever be happy again. And then you came. And all of a sudden, so many of the places in our hearts and our lives that had been so very dark since she died began to feel light and warmth again. Your beautiful, loving little soul, so quick with a kiss or a snuzzle or a smile, has stretched its long tentacles into corners that we weren’t sure even existed anymore. And while our lives, yours, your dad’s, your grandparents, mine, will never be complete without our sweet Hudson, they are and will forever be filled with utter joy because you are in them. And for that, we just couldn’t be more grateful, dear boy.
It was an unfair burden for you to be born with, but my how well you have shouldered it. Every time my eyes fall on that sweet face, whenever I hear that precious grunt of pleasure from your mouth when you see something or someone you love, whenever you grab the sides of my face to hold me still for a kiss, whenever I watch that brow furrow in concentration as you try to figure something out, I burst with love and with gratitude, and I know as fully as any person can that although I have had to shoulder some terrible burdens of my own, I have also been blessed with some of the most wonderful gifts in the world.
You are one of those gifts, my dear Jackson. And I am eternally grateful. I love you, sweet one. Happy first birthday.