Sometimes, at the right angle, I can catch a glimpse of my kids and see what they’ll look like when they’re a few years older. Here, in this photo of Jackson taken on Saturday after a birthday party (hence the face painting and goody bag), I think I can actually see what he’ll look like in ten years, when he’s around 15. And if the past five-and-half years are any indication, that day will be here more quickly than I imagine.
Today Jackson graduates from kindergarten, and just like on his first day (the day I also turned 40), I’m having all the feels. This year has not been without some big challenges. It’s probably been the biggest year of my experience as a mother, providing lots of lessons that have continually changed my perspective and challenged what I think I know. It’s also made me incredibly proud — even prouder than I was before — to be Jackson’s mom.
Jackson is one of the most strong-willed, determined, and tenacious people I’ve ever known. Back when he started pre-k, two years ago this fall, Jackson was at the neighborhood playground one afternoon early in the school year when one of his new classmates — a girl, almost a year older than he — teased him for not being able to swing across the monkey bars. The next day when we were back at the playground, he started practicing, holding his weight, swinging from one bar to the next, falling down, getting back up again, over and over and over. To this day, he hasn’t stopped. Tell him he can’t do something, he’ll prove you wrong (and develop a dozen blisters and callouses in the process).
I saw his strong will on display again when we were at the beach in South Carolina a couple weeks ago. On our first afternoon in the water, he wouldn’t let go of my hand. In fact, he insisted I hold both his hands, and every time a wave crashed against the shore, where we stood about ankle-to-knee deep in the water, he screamed (in delight and terror… or delighted terror, I guess). “Don’t let go of my hand!” he yelled. And I didn’t. By day three at the beach, he had overcome his fear and wanted to wade into the water on his own, asking me to trail behind or a few feet away without touching him. “I could do this all day!” he happily yelled, as he jumped into another small wave and another and then another.
For Passover this year, Jackson memorized the four questions in Hebrew and busted it out at Drew’s cousin’s Seder, much to the shock of everyone there. He watched YouTube videos over and over for a week of people singing the four questions, pausing the videos every minute or so to practice what he’d just listened to until he had everything memorized in English and Hebrew, and his accent and pronunciation was even spot on.
There are so many examples of Jackson not just facing challenges, but embracing them. If I ever worry about him, I think of that; I remember how well he can do in the face of any sort of adversity. Tell him he can’t do something and he’ll prove to you he can. I know he’ll always be ok.
Nearly one-third of Jackson’s childhood is over now. I blinked and, poof, it disappeared. I look at old photos saved on my phone and barely recognize the baby he once was. That baby is long gone now. Even Baby Joanie has all but disappeared in recent months. Now the two of them stay up late in their bedroom, laughing, being silly, being total kids. I walk in to check on them and they exchange fast looks and clutch their bellies and laugh all over again and I can’t even get mad that they’re still horsing around because, come on — this is the shit that’s going to make them close. One day, they won’t share a bedroom anymore and they’ll miss this. I’ll miss this. I’ll miss this.
Sometimes, I catch glimpses of them at just the right angle and can see what they’ll look like when they’re older.
But stay here a minute in the waves with me, kids. I promise I’ll let go when you’re ready.