Friday, May 24, 2013

Happy Second Birthday, Jackson!

Dearest little son of mine,

Today you are two. TWO! How can that be? How can it be two years ago that you came screaming (literally and figuratively) into our lives? How can it be that so much has happened in those two years, enough to make any person’s head spin, and yet here you are, the one that grounds us all. I know that kids are generally pretty resilient, but really, when you tally up all the changes that you have endured in your short life, your ability to maintain the most joyful and welcoming spirit is truly remarkable. You went to day care part-time and then didn’t, had a babysitter for a while and then didn’t, moved to a new house in a new town, had to stop nursing abruptly, had a mommy diagnosed with cancer who then cut her hair into a purple mohawk and then went bald, went full-time to another day care when your mommy went back to work, got used to your daddy being gone for a few nights every other week, moved to a new house again, learned to fall asleep by yourself in your own room when it’s still light outside, and watched your mommy’s hair grow back in and her tummy get bigger and bigger. And through it all, you have remained a delightful and sweet and loving and playful and happy little boy. You have helped keep the rest of us sane (even when you drive us crazy). I can’t tell you how happy and proud it makes me when other parents at day care tell me how you greet them with a big smile and a hug when they come in the door, when your teacher tells me that you try to comfort your friends when they are sad and that you are good at soothing yourself when you are upset or encouraging yourself when you are doing something hard. One of your most precious quirks to me right now is the way that you sometimes interact with the world in the second person. When you want milk, you say, “You want some milk?” When you hurt yourself, you say, “You OK, Jackson?” And when one of us accidentally hurts you, you say, “I’m sorry!” I always know exactly what you mean, but I also wonder if this is just a beautiful form of empathy, for others as well as for yourself, that you have somehow managed to develop.

Of course, you are two, and you have discovered that you are your own person and that the world exists independently from you and that the world is unfortunately not created to satisfy everything that you want, so sometimes, you get overwhelmed by big feelings that you are still unable to tell us about in words. And you cry. And scream. And throw yourself on the floor and roll around. And you know what, that’s okay. That’s just fine, sweetie. That is what you are supposed to do at this age. It’s our job to stay in control for YOU, not the other way around. When you and I were talking this morning about being sad when someone took a toy from you, I heard you say, “Don’t cry, Jackson,” and I was surprised and sad to hear you say that. I am sorry that someone, somewhere, has told you not to cry. I immediately told you that it’s okay to cry when you are upset or sad—it’s just fine. We all need to cry sometimes—I know you’ve seen me cry more than your fair share of times—and little boys and girls need to cry even more than the rest of us, because you are still learning what feelings are, what it’s like to have feelings, how to express feelings, and how to respond to them. And you will keep learning that for a really long time. And that is okay. And I want you to know that Daddy and I will be right here for you as you are learning to deal with all kinds of feelings. And we’ll never tell you not to cry. We’ll sit right there with you while you cry, and just be with you until you are ready to talk about what’s happening or ready to move on to the next thing. And for all the times (and I know there will be many) when we do lose control ourselves, I want to apologize now. I will apologize then, too, but just know that no matter what you do, or how much you lose it, or how long you scream and cry and roll around on the floor, or how long you throw a tantrum in public, or how badly we may react to any of these things, we love you unconditionally and we always will.

You’ve got another big set of changes coming up for you in this next year, too, buddy. Even bigger than all the ones you have gone through so far, which is pretty hard to imagine. In another month, you’re going to start at a new school where you’ll only go part of the day. I think you are really going to like it—you’ll have a lot more time to explore outdoors and do all kinds of creative things. I hope the transition is not too hard for you—I know you love your teacher and your friends at day care. And then not very long after that, you’re going to be a big brother! I know you still don’t understand what that means, but I hope you have some idea of what’s going to happen by the time your little sister gets here. And even though I know that’s going to be the biggest change you’ve endured so far, and even though I know it’s not going to be easy for any of us, I feel pretty confident that you are going to weather it with the same joyful, be-happy-now kind of attitude you exude most of the time. And again, even when you don’t, even when you are having a hard time getting used to not being the only kiddo running this show, we’ll be right here for you while you figure out how to feel about it all. And in the end, I have utter faith that you are going to be one awesome big brother, one of the best ever. You’ve already proven what a sweet, caring soul you are, and I know this will only grow once you realize that you’ve got a pretty big job as a big brother.

And again, as ever, as always, I am so sorry that your big sister isn’t here on earth with you to help you navigate your way through these big changes. I know she’d be right by your side helping you know what to do as a big brother, teaching you all the things she would have learned to do as a big sister if she’d only had the chance. I feel so strongly that even though she is not right here next to you, she is right there inside you all the time. I hope one day you will feel it, too.

Even if I were to write thousands more words, Jackson, I would never be able to express how much joy you have brought into my life, how much joy you continue to bring into it every single moment. At least once, and often many times each day, I just sit and marvel at you and wonder what in the world I did to be so lucky as to become your mom. I love how you love to hang upside down. I love to listen to you sing songs. I love to listen to you chat to yourself while you fall asleep and when you first wake up in the morning. I love how you get so excited when you hear an airplane somewhere far away. I love to watch you examine bugs so closely and studiously. I love how much you enjoy naming things of all kinds—you never seem to tire of this. I love how you delight in the most ordinary things, like making a collection of sticks, pinecones, rocks, and gumballs. I love how you repeat almost everything we say, much to our amusement. I love how one of your favorite games to play is to laugh at me laughing at you. I love how particular you are about what you want to wear each day. I love how you seem to know exactly what kind of music you want to listen to in the car, saying “No” when a song comes on that you don’t like, even several songs in a row. I love how you say “No?” like a question instead of a statement, just like your big sister did. And one of my favorite moments of any day is when I walk into a room after not seeing you for a while and your face just lights up and you shriek with obvious delight, “Mommy!”

I love you so much, sweet boy, and I look forward to watching all the amazing ways you are going to keep growing up in the next year.

Big, big love,



  1. The resemblance between Jackson's photo in this post and Hudson's photo in your profile pic is uncanny.
    Happy Birthday Jackson!

  2. Mandy,

    What a wonderful 2nd birthday tribute to delicious and delightful, Jackson! I do hope to meet him one day. Life sounds good for all.

    With love,

  3. Happy Birthday sweet Jackson!!

  4. Happy belated birthday, sweet Jackson! He sounds like a wonderfully fun toddler. I hope you had a great day celebrating his life!

    P.S. His resemblance to Hudson is stunning, both physically, but also his personality that is so clearly captured in this picture. Beautiful children.

  5. I love your descriptions of Jackson so much, Mandy, especially how similar he is to Hudson (and like I'm sure you hear often: their physical resemblance is amazing). And yes, that "Mommy!" a child can say can soothe so much.

    The "don't cry" makes me sad. I remember your experience in the fabric store if I recall correctly, where a young woman said the same to you when you talked about Hudson. I'd never thought about how feelings-limiting that statement is. One of Zaid's teachers says a similar sentiment offhandedly: "It's nothing to cry over." But if a child or even an adult FEELS like crying, shouldn't that be allowed? Even if it is the rolling on the floor kicking of the feet variety (admittedly, I think that would feel pretty damn good to do as an adult. Screaming sure does.)

    Happy belated birthday to Jackson. I never get tired of looking at his happy face, especially strawberry covered.