Jack did not nap until he was 14 months old. That was not fun. But he made up for his crabby, exhausted babyhood with early development in a few areas that amazed and delighted us. For example, he used baby sign language from a ridiculously young age.
Above his changing table was a mobile made of origami cranes. Every time I changed his diaper, I would give the mobile a swing, and the paper cranes would swoop and swirl above his head. Jack made up a sign for “bird” that let me know he wanted to see his birds, or any bird for that matter. It was a little wave of the wrist, hand held high, and he did it OFTEN.
On that same changing table, at 7 or 8 months, he spoke his first word, “bird.” I videotaped it for daddy at work so he would believe me. No worries there, because once Jack started talking, he never stopped. And spelling, and rearranging the letters of the alphabet forward and backward, and sounding things out—like the word “semaphore” in 3-year-old preschool. At the time, I had no idea what a semaphore was. Jack filled me in.
Thus started the circus act of “Mommy and Jack,” as I proudly showed people all the amazing things he could do. He seemed so mature for his age, doing intricate puzzles and mazes, and building things. It wasn’t until later that I realized that while those things came so easily to him, other things didn’t, such as transitioning from one activity to another, handling disappointment, or staying quiet in class.
The realization that my beloved wonder-child was not perfect rocked my world. It helped me to quit being so smug and judgmental of other people’s parenting, to consider that other people struggle in ways we cannot see, and to be more accepting when baby #2 came around with her own distinct personality.
My inward celebration that I had hit the jackpot (the jackpot!!!) with my 2 particular kids never once slackened, but my heart did grow bigger, and I’m thankful to Jack for that. And so grateful that time and perseverance helped Jack grow into himself-- a smart, funny, caring, likeable 12 year old boy who loved God, his family, and his friends.
In those early years, we spent a lot of time bonding with babies and mommies in our home and at the park. This daily time together kept everyone sane. One of those dear mom-friends, in setting out to write our family a sympathy letter, instead wrote us an incredibly beautiful poem, and I’m honored to share it with you here:
“Bird” he signed,
Pudgy fingers fluttering.
We marvel and clap.
“Bird” he spoke,
“Starts with B”. So smart, so young.
We wonder and smile.
”Bird!” he yelled.
Too loud for the classroom rules.
We correct and sigh.
“Bird”, he imagined,
In stories, games, and colored bricks.
We admire and dream.
“Bird”, he joked
With apt and joyful humor.
We recall and laugh.
“Bird!”, he declaimed,
Confident upon the stage.
We bravo and beam.
“Bird” he became.
Why must he fly home so soon?
We call out and grieve.
“Bird” we weep,
“Come back here! You’ve flown too high.
We cannot see you!”
“bird”, he whispers,
“Let my wings enfold your heart.
We will meet again.”