I love you, buddy. I love your long, long, long shaggy hair. I love the way you pick “All for Jesus” every single night as our bedtime song and then sing all the words. Best of all today, I love that you spontaneously said “I love you, Mommy” to me this morning. I have always wondered when that would first happen and how it would feel. It felt pretty awesome.
You are growing up! You speak so well and have so much to say. (And more than any other thing these days, Daddy and I have to remind you not to talk in a high, whiny voice.) You are trying your hand at making conversation, and tonight you asked the babysitter at the dinner table “What did I do today, friend?” You meant “What did you do,” but you’re still a little mixed up about pronouns sometimes. You’re so polite, too. You say “Yes please” like a tick. You are growing more and more independent, and I keep complimenting you on being responsible. You do things like go to the kitchen to get a rag to wipe up your own spill without being prompted. You are so good at following through with washing your hands after you go potty. And you are doing great learning to take responsibility for your own worship. You remind me that we need to read “Prombums” (Proverbs) at lunch and in the morning you know when it’s time to go get the Bible and prayer book after breakfast so we can worship together. Yesterday in church I had to sit up front with the children’s choir, and you sat all by yourself in our pew and participated without any help. Right now you’re all by yourself outside, playing with a little shovel by the garden. I still love how happily you entertain yourself.
We’ve been talking a lot about temptation and (your words) “winning over Satan.” (Similar word-construction as when you say “I’m winning you,” because you’re getting to the top of the stairs first.) I’m finding that if I can prepare you for a situation you’re about to encounter that you are eager to prove yourself. If I say “Jacob, if Satan tempts you and tells you that you should not want to obey, what will you do?” Your eyes get big and you get all excited and you say, “I will say ‘No, Satan! Go away!'” You are trying so hard to do well, but sometimes it is just more than you can bear and you cave under the pressure. Today you got to play at a friend’s house while I had a rehearsal. We talked about it often in the last few days, because last time we were at their house you threw a massive tantrum about leaving. So I explained often that you would need to be thankful and say yes to Mommy’s choice when it was time to go, and that Satan would want you to be sad and angry. You knew what was going to happen. So when I showed up to get you this afternoon you saw me, ran over, and burst into tears. You just wept. I could tell you knew what you had to do, and you knew you were going to do it, and you knew you didn’t want to. (How well I know that feeling.) So I held you and told you it’s OK to be sad, just not OK to be angry. After you were a little more calm I reminded you about Satan coming to tempt you, and you pulled it together slowly but surely. There was no tantrum, no unthankfulness, and no sulking on the way home. That was a big win for you, buddy.
It’s been a joy to watch you learning to pray. You’ve begun to pray by yourself. Sometimes you want to have me help, especially if you’re not wanting to pray because you’re too attached to your sin. But usually even if I have to choose your words for you, you’ll go along with it. And almost always, it is an effective tool to bring you around to a better attitude. You’ve learned good words, though, and sometimes I just tell you that you need to pray, and you say something like “Dear God, please take away my sin and have mercy on me. Amen.” Yesterday as I sat up with the children’s choir I think I heard your little voice mumbling in the silent spot for confessing sins and I can just imagine exactly what you were saying. One day in the car you were really angry about having to leave a place that you enjoyed. I knew because of the wicked-cranky eyebrows in my rearview mirror. So I was amazed when leading you to pray brought you around. And you knew afterwards that Jesus had forgiven your sin and given you a cheerful heart. A few minutes after we prayed you asked “Mommy, do I have to get a spank when we get home?” “No baby,” I said. “Jesus forgives you and so of course I forgive you, too.” Of course, the next time we had a similar incident you tried to play the “How about I pray really quick…” card to get out of a spanking you had honestly come by.
Speaking of learning to pray, we were in the doctor’s office together last week and you wanted to write letters to Nana & Papa, which means I get you to a text message screen and then you just wail away at the letters. This particular time you were writing to the puppies, and you entertained me with a live reading of what you were writing: “Dear puppies, we want to go to your house. We are on our way. Amen.” The other funny thing you’ve said that comes to mind is from last night, when you were going potty with Daddy while I was getting Merry’s jammies on. We like to have a race with the jammies sometimes, so I informed you that we whooped you and Daddy said “Say, ‘Mommy, we were busy with big people stuff.'” So you did. And hearing you speak self-importantly about “big people stuff” in reference to going potty was just hilarious.
And speaking of doctors, you got treated for asthma for the first time last week. You were wheezing pretty severely by the time we got into the doctor one morning for a check-up, scheduled on the fly because I was worried about strep. No strep, but the nurse practitioner was convinced you had pneumonia. No pneumonia either, but you got to wear the breathing mask and then you helped take responsibility to remember your own breathing medicine twice a day for a week. I was proud of you for taking all of that in stride.
We’ve had lots of fun cooped up in the house these cold, cold winter days. You love to help vacuum, and you tear around with a plastic spatula held to the floor as your “vacuum.” You love to help clear the table and do all kinds of little chores alongside me. We’ve also been having lots of fun working on an alphabet puzzle, reading endless stories (often you recite many of the words yourself, which is great fun!), and making and playing with play-dough. You love to watch a few favorite YouTube videos, especially Riverdance and Alison Balsom, and you’ve been obsessing about the trumpet lately. I love that you are trying to dance yourself what you are seeing in that Riverdance video, but I have been carefully keeping quiet about my delight. Like so many other things lately, I can see you teetering on the brink of self-awareness. The happy abandon when you aren’t feeling self-conscious is too precious to spoil. Now and then you’ll notice that I’ve noticed you, and then you’ll stop whatever you were doing, embarrassed. So I sneak peeks at you doing what you love, thankful for your joy and wary of robbing you of it.
So much of our time is spent just playing, and all my time when you are awake seems wrapped up in you and your sister. Today was different, though, and I doubted myself as I often do when I’m engaged in other activity, worried about letting you slip through the cracks. I’m busy this week singing in a choral program with Daddy, and this morning there was not much time to be on your level as I prepared for rehearsals the rest of the day. But as I was sitting at the piano pounding out notes to Charles Ives, you and Meredith flanking me on the bench and making ten times the noise I was, I thought better of my worry. As your parents, we want to show you what it looks like to live a good life. I don’t want you to think the world is made up of Daddies who earn money and Mommies who keep house, as if there’s nothing more to life. I don’t want you to think that your pursuit of vocation is only to earn your keep. I want you to understand how humans flourish, with all the wealth and waste of culture and beauty and joy. I want you to understand that to flourish is to pursue things just because you love them for their intrinsic value. So I’m glad this week that I get to model that. I’m running around for days extravagantly allotting my time to something completely unnecessary. I hope you’ll do that, too, if it brings you satisfaction. The world is full of things to love and there is so much more to be done than our duty.
I love you.