Monday, June 20, 2016

Eight

Dear Jacob,

Oh, where do I begin?  It's been a weird year.  On one hand, I feel like you've outgrown some of the difficult behaviors that made us so crazy for the past few years, but on the other I feel like you've picked up some others that make me worry about how we will both survive the tween and teen years.  The meltdowns have taken a back seat to super rude behavior.  You still ignore us and dislike your brother, but we can no longer chalk it up to straight-up immaturity because we're starting to see a more mature kid who can be serious about certain things--sports, accounts of your day, and elaborate Minecraft creations, among others.  That juxtaposition (I know, big word) is confusing, and probably frustrates me even more because I know you're capable of better.  I know you have the potential to be an amazing big kid, but we're so busy digging through the impulsive, thoughtless behavior that we just can't quite get to it. 

This past year has been full of surprises and changes.  Your leg surgery obviously wasn't in our plans, and I still can't quite believe it all happened.  Luckily those many months in the boot and the cast are starting to fade, but that was quite a crazy winter for all of us!  We definitely had some not-great moments along the way, but you handled it with a lot more grace than I think I expected.  Yes, you made us crazy with your scampering around the house on all fours, the last-second bathroom runs, and constant requests, but I expected you to nearly lose your mind with boredom, especially since you were missing almost an entire lacrosse season, and that never really happened.  You handled it with a lot more maturity than I expected most of the time.

Despite the injury you've really grown as a lacrosse player.  I'm amazed when I see you running around with your stick and trying trick shots.  You have something special, but we definitely need to keep channeling that passion and energy when it comes to your play on the field.  No trick shots unless you have no other option, and remember to stay with your man when you have to play defense.  Take care of your own end and the goals and the wins will come along with it.  Keep working hard and the sky's the limit for how far you can go.

School is coming along.  Once you got on the extra behavior chart this year, things seemed to go much better...and your army guy population grew by a ton as a result!  I know you still don't love reading, but with how much you love to learn new things, I hope you learn to embrace it sooner or later.  Believe it or not, school stuff actually comes easy for you and I really wish you'd appreciate it more.  I'm not sure I did when I was your age, but having been through it myself, I can tell that your brain just gets that stuff more easily than some kids'.  It's your job to not be complacent about continuing to learn.  Don't take the lazy way out, because your mind can take you far if you try.  There is so much potential there, and I can't wait for you to find your niche, because world, watch out! :)

Watching you create Minecraft worlds in the past five months has been amazing.  I was hesitant to let you start, because I knew it would probably be a perfect fit for you--and therefore you'd be obsessed.  And I was right...but the flip side of it is that you are so creative and full of big ideas!  Your imagination is awesome and I hope you never lose that.  I do hope you learn a little better to live in reality along the way, as I think sometimes you rely on the big dreams a little too much, but keeping that creativity as you get older might be what gets you through the stressful times.  Everyone needs an outlet like that.

But what stands out to me most from this year is how our relationship has deteriorated so badly.  I hope that years from now we'll look back on this time and chalk it up to youthful rebellion.  But I worry so much because you want nothing to do with me right now.  You really just want to hang out with Daddy all the time anyway, but add in that you're convinced I'm just a "mean mom", and you mostly can't get far enough away from me.  No hugs, no kisses, no gentle guiding touches.  You'd sooner jump in front of a car than let me guide you out of the way, I swear.  I can barely have a civil conversation with you without the conversation dissolving into nonsense or you changing the subject to whatever completely unrelated topic pops into your head.  I know you're convinced I'm a terrible mom because I discipline you.  I know that part of the reason you avoid my grasp is because I used to have to grab you a lot when you didn't listen.  It hurts my heart to know it impacted you like that, but like I told you last night, you need to meet me in the middle.  If I tell you numerous times to stop doing something and you continue to ignore me, I need some way to get through to you.  I'd rather not have it be a grab, but you leave me with no choice but to do the one thing that I know will physically stop you.  I learned long ago that spankings don't work on you, and clearly yelling does nothing.  So when I have to physically restrain you or redirect you, I'm doing the only thing I can that makes an impact.  I know you hate it and I don't want to have to do it because I know how much you hate me for it, but it's not fair to leave me defenseless.  If you listen the first time, I don't have to yell.  If you choose not to listen the first few times but listen later, I'll yell but you'll avoid getting grabbed.  But if you refuse to listen at all, I can't just let it go.  We've talked about what happens to kids who don't get disciplined, and I refuse to let that happen to you.  You have to take some responsibility and either learn to listen or give me some leeway to discipline you without you instantly thinking I'm just trying to make your life miserable.  I know it doesn't always feel good and I know it doesn't always seem fair, but you have to trust that we know what's best for you. 

The other thing I wish for you is to learn to live with your brother.  You've been miserable in his presence for over three years.  That is far too long to live with a grudge.  I just wish you could learn that he's a pretty cool kid.  He's not full of cooties (or poop or whatever makes you avoid touching him (or whatever he's touched) like the plague), and he's not nearly as destructive as you seem to think he is.  He's funny, he's sweet, and he's completely obsessed with his big brother.  He wants to be where you are, do what you do, and make you laugh...and you want nothing to do with him.  Once in a while there's a momentary glimpse of how things should be--where you include him or teach him or try to talk to him like a normal person.  But inevitably you set him up to answer a question so you can belittle him or so he will break the rules, and we're right back to square one.  I wish you'd play with him, or at least admit he can be a pretty funny kid.  You're missing out on so much fun, and you're making things so much more difficult for the rest of us. 

In general we just want more love and thoughtfulness.  I know there's so much in that mind that it's hard to always be polite or think of others...or even remember to not eat like a caveman.  But you're eight now, and you're no longer young enough to use your age as an excuse.  You've had eight years to learn this stuff and it's time for it all to start sticking in that head of yours.  I know that you don't like that Carter has some different rules than you, but rest assured those rules applied to you at that age and you've had almost five extra years to practice the big kid versions.  It's not all about you.  We make the rules, and while we may consider your feelings on the subject, sometimes you simply won't get a say.  That's what it's like to be a kid.  Sorry, bud.  Get used to it. 

We love you so much.  I wish it was that simple and you could take that at face value.  But I know we have a lot of work to do.  I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust.  But I need you to try to believe that I have your best interests in mind and that I do what I do out of love.  I don't enjoy yelling or punishing or disciplining.  But it's part of my job, and someday I hope you understand that.  I know you're not always going to like the decisions we make, but I hope you can at least try to respect them.  You mean the world to both of us.  You have no idea how my heart aches thinking about how I felt about you eight years ago tonight, and how broken I feel right now.  I'd say that I'd do anything to make our relationship better, but I can't do it at the expense of helping you to be a better human being.  Or should I?  I honestly don't know what's going to fix this, but I hope our new doctor, our summer commute together, and some very small baby steps will be a good start.  Love may not be enough, but it's something.

I still can't believe you're eight!  We've been on one heck of a roller coaster ride these last eight years.  So many ups and downs, so many changes.  That tiny little baby in the special care nursery has become this big kid.  And as much as I love this big kid, I miss that baby because that love was simple and perfect.  I miss those snuggles, I miss the adoring gazes, and I miss the smiles every time I walked in the room.  I know things have to change, but oh how I wish I could recapture even a tiny bit of what we used to have.  I miss you so much, even though you sleep just down the hall and sit right across the kitchen table.  I miss what we used to have and I hope we can find our way back there by the time I write another one of these birthday letters.  You mean everything to me and I pray that someday you understand that.  But in the meantime I hope you had a very happy birthday and that this year is better than ever!  You're an amazing kid.  Eight is your number in lacrosse and I hope it's lucky for you in life, too.  I love you so much.

Love,
Mom

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