I can hardly believe this, but Jake turned sixteen yesterday. I could go on about the passage of time, and how that doesn't seem possible, but I think that goes without saying. Instead, I want to spend a little bit of time talking about this young man, and what makes him so incredible.
First of all, he is an amazing big (and little) brother. I snapped this photo yesterday and am going to frame it and put it on my desk at work, because it is just so, so perfect. You can see how comfortable Natalie is with her big brother, and you can see how much he loves getting the hug from his baby sister.
He and Vali fight like the Bloods and the Crips, but every so often you'll see him helping her with homework or playing a game with her.
One of the things I admire about my teen-aged children is their strong religious beliefs. Jakob is very involved in his youth group at church and he gets a great deal of support from his friends and the youth leaders who are teaching him to grow in his spiritual journey. I admit to being a skeptic on many things in the religious world, and so it sometimes surprises me to see that my two oldest children have such a strong and powerful relationship with God. I bring my children to church to expose them to religious life and the sense of community that belonging to a parish provides, but I admit to keeping my own feelings on many things to myself. I want my kids to form their own spiritual existence. It fills me with warmth to listen to my son talk about how he has experienced spiritual enlightenment in his church activities. I remember being his age and having such a strong and powerful faith, so I can identify with those euphoric and hopeful feelings, even if the bloom has fallen off the rose a bit for me as an adult. Having something to believe in is so very important for children.
My son is a writer, and while I can't for the life of me get this kid to tell me about upcoming schedule commitments and deadlines, he will talk for hours about plot lines of stories he has in his head. Seriously, I don't know how he keeps it all straight up there, but he has about seven novels being simultaneously constructed in that mind of his.
In so many ways, he is like I was at his age. He's got a close-knit group of friends but is a homebody who would prefer to stick around home with one or two of the guys when he has free time. He's got a self-conscious air about him that I know will fade with time. For now, though, he is still learning about himself. Still coming to terms with who he is and isn't. It might be years before he sees how amazing he is.
He is SUCH a boy. This morning I was driving him to play practice when one of his friends texted him to see if he'd be at practice. He didn't reply to his friend's text. When I asked why, he looked at me like I was crazy. "Mom, I'm going to be in the school in 10 minutes and he'll know the answer. What's the point of telling him?" ARGH. THAT right there, is his father shining through. :)
He used to struggle with school, but somehow he grew into his academic life. This year he's gotten all As and Bs and has had no trouble keeping up with his schoolwork, even though he's been involved in more activities than ever before. He's not afraid to try new things. This year he got a part in the school play, joined the speech team, and signed up for golf. These are all new things for him, and I'm proud of him for trying them out.
I could go on and on about him. I am his adoring mother, after all. But I'll end with this: Jakob has the best hair in the world. It's curly and thick and has the perfect texture. I'm jealous of that hair.
Happy birthday to my little guy. The one who stands a good 8 inches taller than me.
(Weird picture alert - the candles are glowing in a strange halo-effect.)