Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Warning: Bragging Mom in 3, 2, 1...

My son, Jacob, is remarkable.

There, I said it. Now don't go rolling your eyes and closing the browser because I've become one of those moms. Today, he deserves a bit of fanfare -- it's his 5th birthday.

When Jacob was born on May 20, 2004, Jeff and I had no idea what we were in for. I read every book about parenting, feeding, sleeping and discipline... joined Gymboree and Mom's Club and took every bit of advice I could fit into my rapidly declining memory. What's the deal with this mom brain anyway? What was I saying? Oh right, we coddled him like he was fragile glass and bundled him up until he looked like the Michelin man. Let's just say we would never be accused of under-parenting.

While I've never been one to discuss openly, Jake was my first experience with true heartbreak. When he would feel scared or overwhelmed, instead of throwing himself on the floor in anger, he would close his eyes -- shutting out the rest of the world. He was never one to make demands, used manners as well as a little one can, and was never interested in being involved with dramatic antics. Unlike two other munchkins I know who enjoy a good tantrum.

At 12 mos, along with his inability to express himself age-appropriately, we noticed a delay in verbal skills. When things didn't drastically improve, at 18 mos. it was time to investigate. Four hours of early intervention each week -- speech, transitioning, and mommy and me class -- went on for a year and a half. Preschool, at the recommendation of the specialists, began at 2 years 4 mos. I can't even begin to tell you the strides Jacob made in the span of a year and a half. His ability to buckle down and take on the task at hand is truly inspiring to me. Our son has never once backed down from the challenge set before him... the more he needed to achieve, the harder he worked.

At 3 years old, Jacob graduated to the school district's early intervention program. We have sat with him through assessments and observations, talking about goals and plans. We've seen massive improvement throughout that time, with once a week social classes. Today, while he still gets a little assistance, sometimes it feels like he's not even the same child who walked away from me on the schoolyard holding the teacher's hand for the first time.

Why am I telling you this now?

First of all, because I talk about Jacob regularly here -- how unbelievably smart he is (he's reading at a second grade level), how creativity seems to come from a place most of us aspire to have, and how sweet he can be with his younger siblings. But there's so much more to him. My son is stronger than many adults I know, facing the fear and discomfort that sometimes join him on the playground or among peers every single day. He's a true hero in my eyes and I can't wait to see what life with him will bring in the coming years.

But I'm also sharing this because recently I've talked to some parents who may or may not have some of the same concerns. And I feel like our experience with early intervention over the past four years has made us experts in some ways. I want to use this space to encourage anyone who may have questions about their child to seek professional guidance. Even if you think they might grow out of it, I strongly suggest you consult with your pediatrician. Your doctor can help you find a local regional center, where you can get services that won't cost you anything.

Early intervention has meant all the difference to our family. It opened our eyes to some challenges -- big and small -- that also helped us determine whether we had the strength to move forward with adoption. It has helped my son become the brilliant, funny, sensitive boy he is and I will forever stand on my soap box when I think it could potentially help another family.

Today, all of what we have gone through together make this birthday that much more special. Speaking of special, Jacob was asked to create a poster board of his life to share with the class during his special birthday week. Sunday night, after a weekend at Legoland, we sat at the kitchen table with him until after 11:00 PM working on the project until it was perfect. He took such pride in himself and his life, we couldn't help but be touched. Where has my little baby boy gone? Today, a five year old boy, he looked up at me with a big grin from ear-to-ear, and made my heart melt -- just like he did the moment I first saw him five years ago today.

Happy Birthday Jacob Mac. I love you more than anything.

See also: Our Family Expands: Two More Kids
Our Budding Artist
Budding Artist, Part Deux
More Jacob stories


Donna said...

He is an amazing child and brag all you want! I would brag too! I think it's wonderful you are sharing this story. You are a great mom and Happy Belated Birthday Jacob! (It's the same bday as my best friend too!) Taurus' are good people! :)

momwithfaithandhope said...

Happy Birthday Jacob!!! That was one great post Mom!! I had no idea that Jake had a challenging toddlerhood. . .I love that you share this with us. We're just about to begin the transition plan for Gracyn from Alta to the School District. The success Jake has found gives us hope for light at the end of the tunnel (which can sometime feel bleak.)