Eight years ago tonight, we met for the first time. I was the exhausted woman with the lovely epidural drip. You were the very red, very loud newborn who came roaring into the room at 11 p.m. You fit into my arms like a puzzle piece, and I marveled at your perfect skin and wavy hair.
Your brother didn’t warm up to you as instantly as Dad and I did. He ignored you those first few months because he was only 2 years old and unimpressed when you came home and did nothing but eat, sleep and spit up on people. But one day, after several months of taking no notice of you, he walked by the baby swing where you were nestled and reached out to pat you gently on the head. You smiled up at him. After that, you were “in”. He couldn’t deny your charm.
Speaking of charm, you’ve always had plenty. Sure, you had your share of toddler temper tantrums, but you also had an irresistible twinkle in your eyes that made even the most trying days manageable.
One spring you fell in love with a pair of green rubber rain boots with alligators on them. Because you were the second child, I’d learned to pick my battles and footwear didn’t make the list. So I let you wear your beloved rain boots everywhere. And people would stop to comment on your cute boots, which made you beam and love them all the more.
But I don’t think it was the boots that turned heads. It was the way you wore them with such a natural swagger. Not everyone is cool enough to make rubber boots look cool, but you did.
When you started preschool, I didn’t worry because you already had an easy way with people. Every time I see you in action, I wonder how someone as outgoing as you came from someone like me. You’re the kid who makes friends everywhere he goes. One of these days, you should teach me how you do it.
I dropped you off at a friend’s birthday party a few weeks ago, and when you walked through the door, four boys yelled your name and rushed to meet you with hugs and high fives. I felt like the mother of a little rock star.
But your magnetic personality isn’t what I love most about you. It’s your heart. Oh boy, is it big. It makes mine swell with pride every time I think of all the times I’ve watched you put your own wishes aside in order to make someone else happy. You do it instinctively, so I know God must have made you this way.
I never put much stock in birth order stereotypes, but seeing how you broker peace treaties between an older brother and younger sister has made me think maybe there’s something to it after all. You’re the creamy white filling between rigid sibling cookies. You make it work, and they love you for it.
You play one-on-one basketball with your brother and easily transition into playing make-believe with your little sister, and you’re somehow equally happy doing both.
They say the middle child often gets overlooked, and I hope we never make you feel that way. You deserve attention, and I want you to feel as special as you are.
So happy eighth birthday, Jack. I’m immensely proud of the person you’ve been ever since you came roaring into my hospital room. And I’m blessed to have this front row seat to watch where you and your tender heart go from here.