Monday, October 6, 2008

For Jackson, My 4 year old boy

Four years ago,

I was not yet a mother. I was a new wife and a new pastor with a new church in a new home in a new town. In the two years previous, everything about my identity had changed: my title, my last name, my occupation, and now, my girth. I hadn't changed weight or size since high school, but now, I was expanded beyond my furthest imagination.

Growing in me was a boy. A perfect, beautiful, opinionated, music-loving, focused and passionate little boy. From the moment Jackson opted to be born (and believe me, there were times that I was ready to take this choice away from him, but I hung in there for the full NINE DAYS past his due date until he decided he was ready. Four years later, I'm still not over it...), a power and force came into my world that shook me harder and grounded me faster than any other I've ever experienced.

I'm sure most other parents - perhaps mothers, in particular- would agree that having their first child was the most earth-shaking event of their lives. For me, it made two things clear: that my capacity to love you, Jackson Bear, was surpassed only by God's capacity to love all of us. That alone was a gift to me. I also learned that how to definitively understand what was truly important and, by contrast, what was truly worthless in my life. I wanted to sink all of my energy and time into being with you and there was little else that mattered beyond my care of you. I learned that my family and friends are so incredibly dear to me, and would also be dear to you. So, we've worked hard as a family to make and maintain important friendships and connections that will support all of us through our journey together. There's a picture below of you and your bestest buddy, Owen, right after you both turned 1. You're bald, unable to walk unsupported, and completely adorable.

Jackson, you are personally responsible for shaping me into the person and minister (and mother) that I am today. Your strength and determination are an inspiration to me. The photo above is of you at 11 weeks, on the verge of army-crawling off your baby play mat. You stood up in your crib at 5 1/2 months. You never, ever slept through the night. Life, for you, was far too good to let pass lying down. So you have fought and maneuvered literally tooth and nail to achieve everything for yourself in your own time. The down side is that there is no bargaining with you. You're a pretty strong-willed guy, you know? The up side? No one is taking anything from my baby that he doesn't want to give.

You are also the most compassionate person I've ever know. I hesitate to write this story here, because it's so rich with possibility for other venues, but what the heck... you only turn 4 once, right? One day, when you were about 16 months old, we were in a restaurant getting lunch. We had ordered, and were getting our drinks when you toddled over and asked for water. Being the ever-gracious mother that I am, I filled a plastic cup with approximately .65 mL of water, since you were still new to this walking thing, and I didn't want to create a mess. Instead of taking a hearty sip, you took that cup of water and turned towards a table where a woman was sitting alone. With bravery and confidence, you put your cup on her table, backed up as she surprisingly and gratefully took notice, and said, simply, "Here you go!"

A woman, dining alone, didn't have to go thirsty. You, my giving little son, offered her communion and took notice of her solitude. Without judgment or expectation, you offered her water. Then, you toddled off to your own grilled cheese.

Someday, when you're able to read this yourself, I hope you take from it how proud we are of you. To watch you love and care for everyone with such tenderness is the essence of what any good person should do for another. You're just not bogged down in all the other rottenness that seems to get in the way for the rest of us. Cooper is blessed to have you, generous soul, as an older brother. From the day he came into the world, you have been sweet and tender and kind to him. Watching your sibling relationship develop with him is endlessly fascinating. When you could have gotten crabby, you've gotten extra kind. When you could have been jealous, you chose to be nurturing.

I have to say that one of my favorite parts about you is that you're also a total goofball, but you're really clever about it. Last December, we saw Dan Zanes in Concert at the Variety Playhouse, and you were just coming into your own as a dude. A dude who loves music. And concerts. And Dan Zanes.

Your hair, which had previously been a sort of apology for what actual hair should be, was suddenly starting to grow into this glorious, ringlety jumble of blondeness. I think you were starting to get just how cool you are. After the concert, we were packing up to go home, and you swiped my sunglasses and went on an Entourage-esque parade in front of us. I can't describe how hilarious it was to watch you, full of confidence and light, enjoying the kid-ness of your day.

I hope you know how many people love and pray for you each night. Yesterday, we said goodbye to Pupa on his birthday as he flew back to Seattle. Yours is the last in the Flemming Trilogy of birthdays, and I am so glad to celebrate this day with you, my son, my boy, my joy.

I'll leave you with a benediction written by your Godmother, Aunty Kara:

Congratulations on your 4th Birthday. Being 4 is pretty cool - I remember four, it's a great year. You've got lots of really great surprises in store this year, cool things like reading and writing, bike riding and getting into carnival rides.
I know you're going to like being four.
So, sweet Jackson, as you sleep tonight, the world whispers goodbye forever to the baby Jackson, and smiles a secret happy hello to the boy.

We love you, Jackson Matthew.

Happy Birthday.


Ginny Carroll Herrick said...

Mandy, this is such a beautiful tribute to Jackson. I know he will treasure it one day. While I am a little extra emotional from being pregnant, I think your heart-felt words would have made me cry even if I weren't on emotional overload. I look forward to this new adventure in my life, and your beautiful perspective on motherhood is inspiring!

Jennifer said...


I saw your link on your comment to Catherine Newman's most recent post. What a beautiful blog! I'm also a blogging mom of two young kids and it looks like we share a lot of the same interests.

Thanks for putting your thoughts out there and for being a mindful mama. Keep up the good work!

Mandy said...

Thank you both! Jennifer - it's nice to "meet" you. Catherine Newman has been a long-time inspiration of mine. I've never been a journaler, but blogging seems to be a good format for me. I'd love to read your work, as well! Blessings, all.