I am usually the lens through which my children see the world, but for today, I'll be the lens through which the world sees my child.
When we found out that we were first expecting a baby, we were scared silly. We were 23 and 24, and knew absolutely nothing about having a baby around. We buckled him up and brought him home from the hospital, surprised that this was a legal thing to do. Why would anyone send a baby home with such inexperienced people like us?
Jake was a wonderful baby and then little boy, so inquisitive, so smart. He was the perfect "guinea pig" for "starter parents." He was one of those kids who actually did what he was told, stayed where he was put, learned what he was supposed to learn (before it was introduced to him,) and even ate what he was told to eat. He wouldn't even get off of his bed unless we told him it was okay. (For the record, he is our only child who has felt that these are necessary things....)
When I look back at Jake's baby album, I realize how very little we had at that time. Hmm. We didn't know it. He didn't know it. We were a family and that was all that mattered. We had a lot of love, and it was so exciting experiencing the growth of a child for the very first time, ever. I didn't grow up around babies, so it was all new to me.
I could get lost here and wander around forever in Jake's baby years, so let me tell you a bit about who he is today:
He is a good son. Although he's grown, with his own work and school and responsibilities, he still makes every effort to honor his mama and his daddy. He's never disrespectful (well, okay, only once.) If Jeff puts a job on his list, it may take awhile, but consider it done. And lately, he has stepped up the level of his projects. Today he ran a new electrical wire from our top story to our basement in order to better balance the electrical load. He is working along with Nick to gut and restore a little house we purchased in a Sheriff's sale before Jeff fell ill last year. The guys lost quite a bit of time then, but are now back at it whenever they get a few hours of time. He replaced the starter in his car. Jake's got a bit of inventor about him. I asked him to put in a little intercom system for me so that I could call kids to come down for supper at the press of a button. He set to work - creating, drilling, wiring - and when he was finished he had wired our entire house from top to cellar with a speaker system. It even has toggle switches so that I can choose which room I want to speak to. I expected a small project, a box...and he gave me an entire system. Vintage Jake.
Jake is also a Synesthete. This means that he sees letters, words, names and numbers in color. He sees music in color and time in spatial relationships rather than flat, like a tabletop. Numbers have personalities. It's a cool little quirk that has actually proven to be a great benefit to him. It helps him remember things that he has read with almost photographic memory.
Jake has his foibles. We all do. He'd be the first to say so, in the interest of full disclosure. :) He's logical, to a fault. Sisters, and their tears...well, he doesn't quite understand them. He's had to work hard to develop empathy. Computer textbooks? Easy peasy. Emotions? A little more difficult. But he is learning, and he is going to be a wonderful husband and daddy someday. He, too, loves to give good gifts. Provision and service - that's how he shows his love. He is generous, Just like his dad.
Jake's my theology buddy. He loved being a pastor's kid, and had a really rough transition when Jeff left the pastorate. We recommend and discuss books and blogs we're reading, or talk about the latest theological issues in the blogosphere. I enjoy his perspective on history, theology, and current tech and science trends.
Jake has worked for two years at the same job. He also sponsors a little girl named Kija in Tanzania . He's given us a gift, in Kija. She's added so much to our lives through letters and prayers shared over the past two years.
He's also been attending a local college and working toward a computer science degree. He holds an internship with our local PBS station, working on their website. He's really enjoying that.
He's made Dean's List all year, but that's kind of funny for me with home-schooling and all. All of these years (14) and I finally have a kid on the Dean's List. It tickles me, makes me want to say, "I knew he was smart!" Ha Ha. It's hard to describe and maybe you won't "get" that, but I'm proud of him and although it feels about 10 years too late I will tuck it in his scrapbook, anyway.
There is one particular thing that I have deeply appreciated about Jake this year.
All throughout his life, he's been given and has taken on a lot of natural responsibility. As the oldest of nine, he's always had to think of others and look out for younger children. He's always willingly helped out with his grandma and grandpa, too.
Jake graduated from high school last year. He could have gone away to college - he had the freedom to make that decision. He thought about it; he also thought about the Marines. He even took the entry test and scored a 98%.
But when it came down to it, he made the decision to stay at home. He chose to stay with us as a crazy and busy family for another year at least, and to go to college locally. Emotionally, financially, mentally - he could have gone and he would have done well and he would have made it work. At some point, the time will be right and he will know it and he will step out and away from our family. (I can always hope that it's not too far, right?) But for this year, he wanted to be here to watch the baby (Gabriel) grow. He mentioned that he realized how much babies change in six months of time, and he didn't want to miss that. He wanted to know his brother, and he wanted for his brother to know him. I think about that sometimes, when I watch Jake with Gabriel and with the other children. He has given them a gift - the gift of memories with him during their childhood. What an incredible thing, that no one else could have given. He cares for the little ones. People decry large families, and we've learned to laugh along with those who think we are looney (for, we are!) but...a solid base, a huge support group? Oh, goodness - that's a priceless gift, a real blessing and advantage in this world!
Jeff and I are intensively aware of the little bubble of time that we are living in, with our parents still alive and here, our eldest and our youngest and all of our children in between still at home. What a blessed thing this is, not to be taken lightly and not to be assumed for granted. Things will change, of course, but this has been the start of something very, very good.
Thank you, Jake. Thank you for the cuddles when you were little, and the hugs while you are big. Thank you for all of the stories read and the "I love yous" before bed. Thanks for breaking us in as parents for the other kids. Thanks for putting up with every single one of our stages over the years. Thank you for forgiving us when we have failed you. Thank you for growing with us, for working with us, for being such a huge part of us. Thank you for challenging us to grow and for loving us all along the way.
With all of our love for a lifetime and more,
Mom and Dad.