Dear Jackson,

Today, my sweet boy, you turn five. Five days, five weeks and five months old all seemed unimaginable at the time…but, five years? Completely surreal.

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Five years ago today, I was in a hospital hooked up to more machines than I could count. At the time, being induced to deliver you, my overcooked baby, seemed positively terrifying. Twenty-sevens hours of labor, emergency c-section, cord wrapped around your neck AND a true knot? Your grand entrance was the best outcome that would change my world forever.

Since that day, the world has known more smiles, more Jack-isms—all the things that have filled my world with more joy AND gray hair. At five years old, you seem to love everything. You love the world around you; our home, our neighborhood and especially school. You made so many friends this summer at the lake, and made such an impression, you were even asked to be in the Royal Court, which, apparently is a big deal around here. So, at just 5, you’re a “made man” as far as ILCC goes. That said, you seem to have transitioned to suburbia quite well. You don’t ask about our little house as much as you used to and have actually forgotten the joys of walking everywhere. You’re officially a swimmer now and are a fearless little fish.

Music continues to be your biggest interest, where original “songs” and freestyle raps are a crowd-pleaser. Guitar, keyboard and drums are all part of your 5-year old repertoire. You may look like Uncle John’s mini-me, but you are very much your father’s son. You have an obscure penchant for commercials and know all the jingles and catchphrases. You ask if we need fifty percent more cash, are convinced I need a Genie Bra and are genuinely concerned when you ask, “What’s in your wallet?” You are such a sponge for information and the things you learn. You have the same ability to recite lyrics and movie lines and every day details, even after only seeing these things once. It’s quite creepy actually, and also a reminder of mommy’s flightiness and old age. Nevertheless, it’s quite fitting that you share a birthday with Google.

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Of all of your fun attributes, perhaps it’s your heart of gold that I love most about you. As much as I’d love to take credit for this, this is not a learned trait; this is just who you are. You’re generous, thoughtful, and extremely conscientious. You care about those around you, as much as you care about yourself. This is something that sets you apart from others. When mama was pregnant with Joshy, you took such good care of me—retrieving shoes, pillows, snacks—you name it, you did it without a blink. This foreshadowed the months to come, as beknownst to us, our family would see more medical emergencies than any family should see in a lifetime. Sadly, at just five years old, anaphylaxis, “allergic to penicillin,” and “nasty seizures” are all part of your vernacular. From these life experiences, thankfully, we’ve grown as a family. And through these adversities we’ve learned the significance of selflessness, and yes, selfishness too. And you, my boy, have shown so much resilience and selflessness when others have commanded more attention than you. My heart fills with pride when you reinforce how you are such a valiant little boy, like the time you offered a handshake to the little boy who punched you in the face. Forgiveness is not one of my strong suits, admittedly, but with your big heart, I’m constantly learning from you.

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You’re far from perfect, though; you are our kid, after all. We’ve seen the separation anxiety come back with a vengeance this year, which is both understandable and unbearable at times. Occasional entitlement and brattiness have reared their heads, too. Perhaps the unrealistic outings with celebs and media events have done this or was it all the toys that come in for mama’s work? Or maybe it’s just the fact that you’re very much a 5 year old? Either way, I gladly embrace your shortcomings as much as I do all the good stuff. Just like me, you’re a work in progress, and I’m so glad to be a part of it.

Thank you, Jack, for changing my world. I never envisioned myself here—a work at home mom that jumped off the corporate ladder just for you. Lucky you, my guilt overcame my corporate world ambitions when I could no longer allow you to be the very last baby to be picked up at daycare every day. I’m so thankful that the stars aligned and I was able to make a change that would make all of us happier, even if it means to sacrifice things. Even on the days you prefer dad to me, I will continue to rule the roost to ensure that you and your brother become independent, caring, forward-thinking young men. So, no matter how many times you think it’s funny to tell me to “go to work” and daddy should stay home with you, I’m not going anywhere. Well, except when work really does call.
Thank you for making me laugh every day, even when I lose my patience with you. Thank you for telling me you love me every day and for proclaiming me the “best mommy ever” (even though sometimes that’s accompanied by a not-so-hidden agenda). Thank you for being such an incredible big brother to Josh; It goes without saying that Joshy is so lucky to have a pretty rad role model like you. Thank you, Jackson Foster Bertram, for being you.

Happy 5th Birthday, Jack. I love you.