An Open Letter to my Kids 2020

Another year has passed since I last wrote my annual letter to my kiddos to capture all of the beauty that they are in this moment in time. The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 have, without a doubt, been the most difficult and strangest times in our lives, but there has also been laughter, hope, love and as with all difficult things, immeasurable growth. Over the past year, we have faced the loss of my mother-in-law after her battle with cancer. That loss was devastating to our family and as we coped, we found ourselves at ground floor, trying to figure out what this next phase of life would look like for us. We fell hard, facing trials I had never dreamed of, but we found our way and are stronger, more sincere, authentic, and humbled in this life because of the trials.

In the midst of these changes, the world changed too. Covid-19 entered our lives and changed just about everything. The kids were e-learning, I was working from home, our baby never left the house and the busyness of life came to a sudden halt. There in the silence, in the calm, in the void, I found my little family…Phil, Jace, Jera and Jema…and as different as the world was and is, we’re still the same. We share the same love, the giggles are the same, and the screaming and yelling matches between Jace and Jera…those are the same too.

When everything else in life seemed to fail us, we still had every single thing we needed in each other, and for that, I am forever grateful. So today, I sit on my front porch on a very hot and humid July day. Birds are chirping, someone is weedeating, there’s a pesky fly making his presence known. Life moves forward at a steady pace. Tomorrow is uncertain…what will school look like, what will work look like, will we get sick, will we have the groceries, the medicine, the household goods that we’re used to? These are the things that I don’t know. So I’ll write on what I do know…my three wonderful, beautiful, amazing children. Here goes my open letter 2020…

Jace –

My son, you are 11 years old today. You, my dear, are quite simply one of my favorite people in the entire world. You are my sidekick in so many things since we share many interests and often think the same way about things. Whether it’s going on a run together, challenging ourselves with a long bike ride, walking the dogs, or watching a favorite show together, time with you is easy. You are an unbelievable comfort in this life. I’m so thankful for you.

Last year you joined travel wrestling. You are a late entrant into the sport, starting for the first time in the school’s league in the fourth grade. You did well and were excited to compete at the club level. It was a tough year for you, wrestling boys who had built technique and skills over several years, but you persevered tourney after tourney, pulling out a few wins. Even in the losses, you always gave your best effort. That made me so proud of you. What your dad and I saw was growth, physical growth as the sport packed muscle on your body where there was once none, and mental strength as you learned to compete and dig deep for motivation. You faced some difficult things in your life over the past year, and what I learned about you is that you’re such a strong person, clear in your convictions, kind and forgiving, but always willing to stand up for what you believe is right. I can see already that this will be an area of great strength for you as you grow into an adult.

Some of the things that you love right now are Fort Nite, remote control cars, and working to make money. You can be stubborn and hard-headed, but you can also be thoughtful and reasonable. You love your animals (Rusty, Tony and Chip). You still love to fight and argue with your sister, Jera. I find it hard not to intervene in your play fights since I know they often end in tears, but I’ve also found that what looks like torture to mom just happens to be fun to the two of you. You love to play with your baby sister, Jema, and you’re so responsible with with her. That makes me very proud of you.

It is a great joy to be your parent. You are in fact so responsible, that I have to sometimes remind you just to be a kid, not to worry about adult things, and to enjoy this special time in your life. Thank you for always being such a cool kid, for your humor, for your deep and loving soul, for all of the wonderful things that make you Jace, my number one son.

Jera –

You are eight years old today. My child – you are still the beautiful tornado that I’ve written of in years passed. This past year has again brought so many changes from you. The little girl I saw a year ago has grown into a young lady. Sometimes you are hyper-aware of this growth, fiddling with hair and makeup perhaps a little too advanced for your age…and other times, it takes a moment for you to remember how much you’ve grown. I smile to myself when I see you holding on to little girl ways. It’s a blessing to snag those moments when I can.

You, my girl, are so silly. You still love tickle time and insist that I drop everything regardless of what I have going and tickle you until you can’t take it anymore. Your laugh and smile are contagious and even when I go into these tickle sessions tired or weighted down from life, I find myself getting lost in your joy. You bring out the kid in me and I appreciate that so much. That is a gift in my life. I’ve see a few phases pass you by this year, from Disney’s Descendants to Zombies to your latest obsession, Miraculous Lady Bug. You also love Boy Meets World and have watched all seasons from beginning to end. This year you’ve tackled gymnastics, voice lessons and piano. It’s fun to watch you challenge yourself and grow.

You are smart and quick-witted. I think you get your sense of humor from your dad, and I absolutely love that. His humor is what I’ve always loved most about him, and to see that grow in you, is a blessing in my life. You’re fast with the unexpected…I never quite fully have you figured out. I’ve found a pattern where if I say black, you say white. This part of our relationship teaches me patience and to always keep an open mind. I love the way you think about life, the things that are important to you, the parts that you share with others, and the parts that you tuck away. You are a special, joyous and free soul, and I’m thankful to walk beside you in this life…even if I often feel like I have to run to keep up with you.

You love picking on your brother, starting arguments and biting off more than you can chew. You love, absolutely love your baby sister. You are so good with her and often selfless in your relationship with her that it warms my heart. You share your most prized positions with her and you don’t think twice about it. Your generosity with others makes me so proud of you.

Thank you for keeping things interesting, for being so loving and fun, for never letting the world weigh you down. You are like a spark…bright, beautiful, fast and forever lighting up my life.

Jema –

You are a year and a half old today, and life is never boring with you around. You are still in a time of so many firsts, and each one is so amazing and exciting. You have the art of waving goodbye down, and you do it in the most special and adorable way, waving both hands around in the air, all five fingers stretched out. Oh gosh, and your hellos…your hellos are everything in the world that my heart desires. When I arrive at the end of the work day to pick you up, you’re standing in the doorway both hands raised, waving away and then you run into my arms. That moment, each and every time it happens is a God-given gift.

You love your baby dolls, which tickles me. Each one seems special to you, and you will take time to deliver every single one from place to place throughout the house. You also like cars and music. Your favorite show is Blippi, and your dad and I are amazed that you sit and watch it at full attention. You also love Mickey Mouse, Blues Clues and Bluey. Your brother, sister and I get the biggest kick out of watching you dance to the music in the car. We giggle each and every time you bounce in your seat, kicking your feet and banging your head. You’ve got moves. You can say many words…mama, dada, bubba, Jera, kitty cat…but you prefer to point and usually have an army awaiting your next request. Between your brother, sister, cousins and grandparents, I wonder if you’ll ever want for anything. I don’t think that you will.

Your dad and I often marvel over your serious nature. You have a wonderful laugh, which is usually brought on by chasing the cat or dogs around the house, but many times we find you thinking about the world around you. You can’t tell us yet, but it seems to us that you’re figuring it all out. You babble endlessly in your own language, and I know, if I could understand, you’d be telling me you have the world’s worries all figured out, or maybe you’d be telling me you just tried some dog food and it wasn’t half bad…because we’ve caught you doing just that.

I’m sure you’ll continue to find that being the baby comes with it’s perks, namely being that we don’t sweat the small stuff with you. In the summer, you seldom have shoes on, and some days we’re lucky if you’re clothed. We didn’t push learning to crawl or walk or sit around with flash cards trying to get you to speak. No, for us, we find joy in seeing you content, feeling the grass between your toes, moving through life at your own pace, and experiencing every single moment as it comes to you and no sooner. You, my Jem-the-Bem-the-Boom-Boom-Bang, have the longest nickname for one, but also have joined me in life and made my priorities very clear. Thank you for bringing into focus what a gift each moment of this life really is, helping me to see how quickly it all passes, and teaching me that joy is found in the ordinary moments.

As I reflect on my children over the past year, I can’t help but think about the year to come. What I’ve found is that there is no way we could possible know what’s in store for us. So I will be thankful for this day, for this moment, for the love and joy I can bring to the lives around me. The rest…the rest I will put in God’s hands.