Tuesday, June 20, 2017

NINE

Dear Jacob,

Holy cow, as of today we're only 364 days short of a full decade together.  How is my first little baby nine years old today?  I still vividly remember the many moments leading up to when you were finally born, and it's so hard to believe it was that long ago now.  I look at pictures of myself from before you were born and shortly after and think, "Amateur!"  It's mind-boggling to think about how much we've been through together since the day you were born.  You spent your first couple hours crying, and only a few hours later, the first of our many trials officially began as you were whisked off to the special care nursery.  Almost nothing has been easy in the nine years since, but here we are.

You're officially halfway to adulthood now (what?!), and most of the time I worry that we haven't made the most of our time together.  I feel like I've spent so much time trying to keep you on track that the quality of our time has suffered.  We tell you all the time that we could have so much more fun as a family if you just listened and cooperated.  While we've done a lot despite our challenges, I feel like there was so much more that we just didn't have the energy to attempt.  I'll be the first to admit that I have no idea how to raise a kid like you.  I feel like I've made mistake after mistake despite endless best intentions.  You are stubborn and free-spirited and full of big ideas, but you're currently lacking the skill to rein some of that stuff in to a reasonable level, which makes our job as parents really challenging.  Either we try to give you guidance and get shut down, or we let you fail and have to manage the frustration that results.  Neither route is easy, but I'm trying to opt for the latter because I'm sure you feel like I tell you what to do enough, and learning your own lessons is more valuable in the long run.

You're definitely not an average kid, as you've disproved most parenting norms and philosophies for years.  I still find it really hard to figure out what you're capable of doing or understanding on your own, as you're super smart and can be really driven, but sometimes there's a key component in there that just doesn't click into place...and the challenge is figuring out of it didn't click because it just didn't occur to you, or because you had different plans.  I want to have high expectations of you because I know you're capable of amazing things, but I know you're also not like most kids.

We've had an eventful year: third grade, travel lacrosse, an official ADHD diagnosis, and medication that changed your entire outlook on school.  Watching you improve at lacrosse has been amazing, and it brings me so much joy to watch you play with passion.  I know practice isn't your favorite, but I hope you learn to embrace it at some point because the best players know that every game and every practice represent opportunities to learn and improve.  You have so much potential, but it's still going to take a lot of hard work to achieve the success you want, and it won't always be on your terms.

Seeing your improvement at school has taken a huge load off my mind this year.  I know you still have your challenges, but hearing you say how much you like school has made my heart so happy.  You even have favorite parts besides gym, which is a first.  It was just amazing to me how your medicine made an immediate impact and changed your perspective so greatly.  Clearly it makes a difference to not be distracted or yelled at or constantly redirected, and it makes me happy to know you can experience that peace at school for the first time in your life.  You are creative and enterprising, and I know someday that will serve you well if you learn to channel it properly.

Lately I look at you and see such a big kid.  I can barely believe you were once my tiny baby, or even that cute little toddler.  The dimples are still there and parts of the face are similar, but you now have a mouth full of big kid teeth, you put gel in your hair, and you're getting within spitting distance of my height. In many ways you still act like a little kid, but now and then you say something that reminds us just how big you really are.  I know so many changes are coming in the next few years, so you'll have to pardon me while I brace myself and try to savor whatever little kid-ness you have left.  There's no rush, I promise.

The day you were born was one of the most disorienting days of my life.  I was exhausted, overtired, and so sore I'd have sworn I ran a marathon the previous day.  You were sick, I was worried, and yet I was so out-of-sorts that I didn't even think to ask if I could visit you until later in the day.  But it was so amazing once I did, and eventually I even got to hold you, which was even better.  Even though that day was so hard, nowadays I sort of long for it because everything seems so simple looking back.  My entire job at that moment was to love you.  I didn't have to teach you or discipline you or play referee.  I didn't have to worry that I was doing it all wrong (aside from feedings and diaper changes and deciphering cries--that was all new!).  Now it seems like anything we tackled that first week was so easy compared to the big kid issues.  And yet I know it should be just that simple now--to love you--and I do, so much--but this responsibility we have as parents to teach you how to become a decent human being is pretty daunting, and most days I feel like I can't rest for a moment because the clock is ticking and you are a challenging student.  We try to discipline with love, but it's not easy because you can make us absolutely insane with your unconcerned response to most of what we say to you.  But we're trying.

We hope you had a great 9th birthday and this is the beginning of a great year.  You have so much potential, and with a little more cooperation, I think we can start helping that turn into something amazing.  We love you so much!

Love always,
Mommy (and Daddy, too!)

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