Wow. It has been quite a year. I won't lie, it's been the hardest year of my life. You have given us a serious run for our money in the past year, and I think both Daddy's and my sanity hangs by a thread some days. But to see how much you've grown and changed in other areas of your life has been amazing, and gives me hope that that side of you will one day win out and we can put all of this craziness behind us.
We don't know why your behavior went way off the deep end last summer. It could have been your brother's continued presence in our house (nope, he's still not going anywhere), it could have been the transition into Kindergarten, it could have been the gluten, or maybe it's just how you're wired, and for whatever reason some combination of something set it into motion. Ultimately it doesn't matter what did it (though, ummm, it might be helpful to know if you do), it just matters that we're stopping at nothing to do what we can to get you through it. You've seen doctors and counselors and therapists this year, all with the purpose of trying to figure you out. And while that hasn't necessarily happened, you have pretty much charmed every single one of them along the way. We hear so much about how smart you are, how much they enjoyed hanging out with you, and how impressed they are with something you did--usually a picture you drew or an elaborate story you told. The refrain at daycare was always, "He drives us nuts, but we love him anyway!" Sometimes I feel like you're wise beyond your years, because while I'm not always sure other kids "get" your sense of humor, adults generally seem to get a kick out of you. Of course, then you fall back to the potty talk and suddenly the charm wears off.
Last year at this time you could barely read any words, and while you loved to have people spell words out so you could write them, spelling yourself was pretty rare. A couple weeks ago you knew almost 90 of the nearly 100 sight word flash cards we have, where last fall you only knew a handful. Now you've read me entire books from your bookshelf with only a couple requests for help on tricky words. You've written cool journal entries and funny bios about Mommy and Daddy. You seem like you could do math worksheets with your eyes closed, and your drawings can be so detailed and sophisticated. If it wasn't for that pesky skill of having to sit still and listen, you'd have Kindergarten completely aced.
One thing I've grown to love about you is your passion. Your interests have always been obvious, but as you've grown older you make it your mission to go all the way with things. You need to dress the part, learn the skills, and create a perfect setup. While it can be challenging when that desire surfaces at an inconvenient time, we definitely know that there's a method to your madness and someday these skills will serve you well. In the meantime it's awesome to watch you learn. Seeing your improvement with baseball and lacrosse this year has been so cool!
You're also so creative, and I love watching your brain come up with something new. Sometimes the pictures I pull out of your school folder are amazing. The one picture you painted this winter is going to have a very hard time getting replaced in our interchangeable frame photo gallery. It's gorgeous. I love hearing you make up stories, or do play-by-play like Daddy. There is so much going on in that head of yours. I wish I understood more of it.
We know that there's such an amazing, smart, funny kid in there, and we just wish that all of the other stuff that's drowning him out would go away. While we love so much about you, we hate that so many of our interactions involve repeating directions or yelling when you ignore us yet again. We dream of what it would be like to have you obey the first time, respond to a question without resorting to potty talk, or have you agree to do something without hitting us in anger first. I know that parents need to love their children unconditionally, and we do, but whenever I hear parents with difficult kids say that they wouldn't change them for anything, I think it's crap. Anytime you could improve your child's existence--their ability to interact with other people, to feel love, to learn without limitation--you do what you can to do that. We love you to pieces, but I desperately wish we could get you to see the big picture. We remind you how much more fun we could have if you cooperated, but you just can't seem to control it. We're doing what we can to help you learn, but boy, it is not easy.
You have moments, though, moments where you can be so sweet, so loving, so charming...and when those moments happen, it's enough to keep me going another day. I just wish there were more. I never dreamed six years ago today that this is where we'd be now. I thought that by 6 you'd be our little buddy and we'd have this parenting thing pretty well down pat before hormones took over in a couple more years and started screwing things up again. But things have continued to be challenging. I mourn the fact that you've missed out on enjoying these past 16 months with your baby brother. I'm sad that Kindergarten was such a challenge for all of us. I'm bummed that I don't want to hang out with you more because I'm exhausted from trying to figure out how to handle your challenging moments. I miss that sweet little baby that I hadn't screwed up yet, the toddler who thought I was the coolest thing ever. I don't know where things went wrong, but I'm going to spend as long as it takes to figure it out. I know that, despite the potty talk and hitting that permeates almost every conversation we have, there's a kid who's worth it in there.
I don't know where these last six years have gone (well, aside from begging you to eat dinner, teaching you how to use the potty, and trying to discipline you...all in between multiple sports obsessions), but it blows my mind to realize that my tiny baby boy who put me through three hours of painful pushing and a crazy week at the hospital is now a full-blown big boy who's going into first grade. Sometimes it's hard to believe because you don't always act your age (for the love of God please use a fork!), but mostly it's just shock and awe about how much you've changed. I don't know if you'll ever care enough to read this post, or this entire blog that you inspired, but I hope you do and you realize how loved you've always been. Regardless of what you think of me as a parent, I hope you know that I'm just trying to do my best and I'm only doing all of this because I love you too much to not give it a try.
Ok, I feel like I'm babbling. I'm exhausted from a busy week and a couple late nights trying to do what I could to give you a good birthday. I need to get some sleep, but I wanted to make sure I gave you a birthday post. Perhaps it's not as happy-go-lucky as some of the others, but I'm not about to gloss over the truth. It's been a rough year, but I hope that six is kinder to us than five. Just know that we love you and want to see you succeed. We may not always know the best way to do that, but be patient with us...we're all just trying to figure things out. We hope you had a wonderful birthday, and we hope that this year is the best yet. We'll do everything we can to help it happen, but any help you can give us would be great. We're tired!
Happy 6th Birthday, Jacob Julian. We love you so much.