Recently, my son Jackson turned twenty two but thanks to the current pandemic and the fact that we live on different coasts, I haven’t seen him since January 3rd in the Hong Kong airport. I have an unapologetic, wild love for Jackson. We have always been deeply connected souls. I understand that not everyone has this with their children or parents, and that’s alright. Love is a spectrum. And yet, he has my whole heart. Sometimes I think he is the culmination of unsettled lives I lived before this one. As if I was waiting for him to arrive.
Since his birthday, his early years have been on my mind. Women have been having babies forever, so while Jackson’s birth was extraordinary for us, it was not so remarkable in the big scheme of things. What was astonishing though was how quickly I loved him with every fiber of my being. How his pain became my pain, instantly. When he discovered something new, it was as if I was discovering it all over again. And in my youth, I thought we would always be two peas in a pod. Just the two of us.
But that is not the natural evolution of a parent-child relationship.
I no longer know his thoughts or motivations, his deepest fears and greatest hopes. My heart breaks when I watch him struggle and know that I cannot help him. I understand that this divide is normal. Necessary for growth, for both of us. I’m grateful for our grown-up relationship which allows for philosophical, meaningful conversations as well as having a good laugh at ourselves.
And still, what I would give for him to be small enough again to hold in my arms and smell the sweet toddler sweat on his head.
So, for Jackson, here are a few entries from my journal when he was a wee babe and some of his own musings as a toddler…
It’s difficult to know where to start because there is so much I want to share with you. You are four days old and you are asleep on the couch with your papa. I will start by introducing him. He has a certain naivete about everything and I know he will share all of his knowledge and excitement about life with you. Your father and I met when we were just 21. Two weeks later, I had moved in, but it was a tumultuous, changing relationship. When I became pregnant with you, I knew immediately that I loved you and I prayed your father would too. But he has done more than that. Nothing is giving him greater pleasure than to hold you, change you, kiss you. He is truly in awe of how many wonderful ways that bringing you into the world will change our lives.
Your father and I care about each other very much. We have different ideas, however, in regards to what love is. You have already changed so much of that, though. After you were born, I took a quick cat nap and when I woke, I looked across to your papa holding you in the rocking chair with tears running down his face. He loved you since the moment he met you. Never lose faith in him.
Sometimes I miss you a lot, Jay. I got to spend the last two days with you before I started my new job. It was so energy consuming but I loved it. I love you. I love hearing you say Mama. I love listening to you try and explain things to me. And it’s tough to understand you, still. And now that I’m away from you again, I keep hearing your sweet voice in my head. How you amaze me, Jay. How you tilt your head to one side when you ask a question. With your buoyant blond curls dangling from your head. Just perfect.
Jackson – you cannot imagine how many times I have sat next to you while you slept – staring at your precious face, your soft pink cheeks and puffy lips, your curly locks – just wanting to hold you, cradle you again like a baby. But you hardly let me anymore. You’re so big and when you wake up, you’re like a tornado! I miss you already. I miss the baby. A boy has taken over and there is only the need for Mama when you are hurt or scared. I cherish those moments now. I love our conversations – you are thoughtful and articulate. You bring your memories to me and we figure them out together. I remember talking to you as if you were the little monkey – I’d speak and you’d cock your head to one side and run off. Now – you understand everything. When you go to bed, you ask me to lay next to you for just a minute. So I do and we are silent or I sing a song. And some nights you say “Let’s talk, Mama.”
“Okay, boy. About what?”
“Um. How about camping?”
And we talk until one of us decides to tickle the other, or roll over on the other, and then we know it’s time for sleep. And some nights, like tonight, you ask for the candles to be lit and we stare at the flame in silence for a bit. Sometimes we make shadows and tell stories. And we always end up laughing…
I love you more than anything, little bird. I love you like the stars.
Jackson’s musings from toddler years…
Mama, do you think there is a king of the stars?
Wouldn’t it be nice to visit the moon? How far away do you think it is? Really? It looks so close. Why does it look so close?
Where does the water in the shower come from?
Is heaven real? Where did I come from? Did I walk into your belly? Am I an angel from heaven?
Mama, what is drinking and drugging? What is sin? What is advertising? Why do people go to church?
Mama, you don’t cry like I do. The tears just come from your eyes, down your cheeks. Not like me, I make noise.
I love you. Even when I don’t get what I want, I still love my Mama.
Writer Traveler Human Being