Oh, my sweet Jacob,
Your sixth year took quite a turn, didn’t it? It started out in the middle of a tun of high notes, between our move from New Hampshire to Salem, your dad’s new job, and the news that you’d be taking the leap from youngest to middle child a few months later… after our struggles in early 2008-09 (more mine and your dad’s, boring stressful grown-up stuff like unemployment and infertility and medical issues) it felt like we had finally been handed a get-out-of-jail-free card. There was a several-month stretch when life just felt easier, like suddenly we could all breathe again. I could smile, easily and genuinely.
So could you.
You settled into the new apartment, started kindergarten, and rolled with those changes with characteristic hesitancy and, once you figured out what was what, aplomb. You continued to follow Emily’s lead a lot of the time, but you also got better at showing your own preferences and ideas: your personality, independent of big sisters and classmates and parents. Just you.
Happily, you, just being yourself, is pretty awesome. You’ve developed a strong skill – given the intensity of your sister’s personality, I have to consider it self-preservation – of gauging the moods and interests of those around you, and rolling with whatever life hands you… but not in a way that is weak or resentful. You just find a way to truly enjoy yourself, to carve out some little aspect of Jacob-centric happiness, while still letting those around you set the pace or choose the activities at hand. It’s a tremendous gift, this ability to be at ease and bring smiles to those around you, and I’m deeply proud.
You have an enormous sense of fun, and it has been a continual joy to watch you blossom, both intellectually – reading, writing, suddenly getting the plays on words of which your father is so enamored – and emotionally. You’re so delightfully credulous right now, completely believing things that seem beyond imagination to the rest of us: last fall, the movie ET kept you on the edge of your seat, and just last week, your parents took a horrible glee in explaining that on Wednesday we would have this 5-year-old kid in the house and then, *poof*, magically, on Thursday morning, we would have a brand-new 6-year-old kid, a totally new one… you were seriously alarmed at the prospect of being traded in for a newer model, and I don’t think you completely relaxed about the idea until Thursday dawned with our same precious Jacob in the house.
You’re not perfect, of course. You’re still a, shall we say, inconsistent sleeper, unless by “consistency” we mean “visits one’s parents several times a week in the wee hours,” in which case you’re painfully consistent. Your ability to express yourself, in spoken words or in writing, is not as strong or as natural as you’d like it to be, and so you end up frustrated. You like to wait, and watch, and observe, before trying something new, which is a fine thing when it shows you to have some caution and restraint in the world, but sometimes it tips over the line into fearful and stuck, despite the encouragement and explanations of those around you.
But those are just the little quirks and spices that make you into a real person, a special and genuine presence in the world instead of just a robotically Zen shell of a boy, and so I appreciate them all.
Then March happened. I don’t know if you understood, at the time, how close you came to having your whole world turn entirely up-side-down; the loss of a mother is the kind of thing no kid can just walk away from, but you have always really been your Mama’s boy. I still don’t think you remotely grasp how bad things were, but now you don’t have to. As bad as things got, when I got sick – as bad as things have continued to be, while I struggle through recovery and your dad does this heroic job of running the household and chaos shimmers just a few inches away from our lives even months later – somehow you have still managed to keep that core, unflappable Jacobness.
I’m so sorry, that I couldn’t protect you – all of us – from the risks and dangers that exploded into our world in March, with aftereffects that continue to leave dark bruises in unexpected places. But you have been so sweet and strong and brave, just taking in new information and asking questions and simply hanging in there, when no one would have blamed you if you’d developed some new habits involving tantrums or meltdowns.
And it has gotten better. We’re not back to 100% yet, and I don’t know that I ever will be. But our family has grown so much stronger, and more grateful and expressive, in the aftermath of illness and fear. I think I was a pretty good mother before it all happened, but I know that I’m much more attuned and in line with you – with all three of you – now. My priorities have been clarified, and I recognize that there are things that I apparently have very little control over… like my health. But there are other things I can control, and luckily the single most important thing I do is something I’m also pretty good at: being your mom.
So here’s to a year of calmness and predictability, OK? Or, at least, as close an approximation as this family is capable of. You’re such a sweet, caring big brother already, and it’s only going to get more fun as Isaac grows and becomes more interactive. And you’ve had six years of practice, now, at being Emily’s little brother; she might not realize it, but there’s not another person on the planet who could do it any better than you do. Just keep on growing, and smiling, and being your precious, caring, honest, attuned little self, and we’ll keep doing our best to deserve you.
Love, love, love you,