Dear Young J,
I began this blog just before you turned 8. I marked that occasion here. And here I am, miraculously, to see another one. Today, Young J, you turned 9. Nine.
We held a small party for you at a local climbing gym. The wall’s resemblance to the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge are not coincidental. We visited the gym a few weeks ago to see if you even liked climbing. You sure did! Young A was not so keen, and today he refused to harness up, as predicted (J happily took his spot, and I warmed the bench with Young A).
Just your inner circle was invited to this party – your school friends, some of whom you’ve become pretty tight with this year, and also your former neighbor and adjunct sibling, S, whose birthday party you attended last weekend. I’m so glad you two remain friends. S is the only girl you really talk to these days – I’m not sure if the girls at school are segregating themselves or are too mysterious or what, but I’m just so glad there is one girl you call a friend.
Young J, the ways in which you have grown and blossomed this year are astonishing. You’ve been working on your social skills for a while now, with therapists at school, and I feel like there may soon come a point where you surpass your peers in that regard. What then? I hope if that ever happens you won’t be too disappointed.
You get very irritated when J and I look at our phones. “Stop looking at your shiny rock!” you scold us. And every time, without fail, I feel chastened, ashamed. Last night, we attended a really great holiday party, and the kids were hanging out downstairs with all of the necessary accoutrements of the day: movies and electronic devices. I think you liked the movies, but it sounds like you were confused by the rest. When we were leaving, you said to me, quietly, “You know, it wasn’t much of a party. All of the kids were just playing on their phones and iPads.” My heart broke, a little. We’d been upstairs, having a lot of fun talking to new people, and you were not meeting anyone new and you didn’t have your own device, so that must have been hard. I let you box a few rounds with the punching bag before we left. I think you liked it.
Sweet Young J, things will get hard for you in the next few years. That’s just how things go as you become your own person. In the time we have left to influence how things go for you in life, I’ll try to set an example by pursuing my joy. By doing what I love, because it feels more like a vocation than my career ever did, and because what I write may have the capacity to help people.
There are a million other important things I want you to learn from me, of course, but I am well aware I may not have the time to get to them all, whether that is because your window of openness to learning will start to close, or whether my influence over you dwindles if my condition deteriorates again.
Whatever happens, you should know that in your whole life, I’ve never allowed you to go to bed feeling angry at us or feeling that we were angry at you. It’s something I’ve always insisted on. (Sometimes, that requires an eleventh hour bedside conference.) I make a lot of mistakes as a parent – sometimes it even feels like I make them hourly – but I am pretty sure you have never felt unloved. I think that loving one another is something our family does well. I think the problems arise more from an excess of love. We should all be so lucky, to have this as our problem!
Go forth, Young J, and keep conquering the world with your quiet presence, your winning smile, your gentle ways and your amazing writing skills. You play guitar really nicely too. I can’t wait to see what else you do.