Dearest Jackson Edward,
Today is your birthday, your second birthday.
My grandson, this is the day we celebrate you.
I’ve been thinking back about the interesting directions on how my love for you has continued to expand this past year.
Yes, you’re two, and it’s occurred to me that my love for you actually goes far beyond your connection to me.
I see it when you continually say: “Ouuutsiiiiide!” There’s no place you’d rather be in any season than outside, on our porch, on your deck at home, at the local park, or walking around the neighborhood.
I realize it when you make definitive requests for what you want for breakfast with Grandma Wagner, a.k.a., Nonna: Scrambled eggs and toast with butter, LOTS of butter.
I notice it when you take charge of a play time with your small Hot Wheels cars: “I need car!” We’re still working on those prepositions, by the way.
I encounter it during the moments of cuddling with you on the couch watching the educational kids television series — Caillou or reading classic children’s books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
The second year was so much different than the first. You became an Olympic sprinter as well as a stair climber, ramp fan, ball thrower, insect examiner, moon/star gazer, stick grabber and rock taster (unfortunately).
Your newfound independence shines through daily with the cry: “I do, I do!” We no longer feed you—you insist on feeding yourself. We no longer have to brush your teeth for you—you insist on brushing your own teeth, with your own toothbrush(es). And now you’re even starting to read some books on your own.
You experienced new things, too.
You experienced your first haircut. You experienced your first Nebraska sweet corn husking. You experienced your first visit to our 150 year-old family farm.
You experienced your first fishing adventure. You experienced your first major hike. You experienced your first lake swim in Nebraska.
What has stayed the same? You are still the most vocal person I have ever known. No, not the most chatty child — arguably the most talkative human being on the planet! Not that I understand half of what you’re saying sometimes. An “inside voice” is not in your bailiwick quite yet.
Your smile and happiness are contagious. On trying days for us adults in the family, those qualities brighten us like nothing else can. The gentle phrase you say to me: “Hi Papa,” is one that always uplifts me. I treasure every single day I get to spend with you!
Your high level of excitement is pure joy. All of us who know you get a charge out of it. You are so funny when you get excited about something—like making pancakes with Nonna, you holler “OHHHHH!”, as if it’s the first time you’ve ever made or tasted them. Your excitement over these everyday things vibrates from your fingers down to your toes. It causes the rest of us to slow down and acknowledge the basic, but essential details in our lives.
At two years of age, you have become your very own unique individual, and—here’s the clincher—you’re awesome!
My overflowing love for you today is based strongly on who you are as your own person — rather than on the simple fact that you’re my grandson.
The most wonderful part about that manifestation is the realization that it’s only going to keep evolving and growing.
As you continue to develop, so will the ways I love you. As your likes and dislikes become more refined—as you face challenges, decisions, successes and disappointments in life—my heart will expand to other places, too. I will be there always as sounding board, and a dispensary for wise, sage advice, if needed. I will be there to enhance and foster your amazing sense of wonder in nature and to introduce you to all kinds of outdoor activities.
And then one day I will wake up and you will have become and an adult, one that I will cherish not only as a grandson, but also as a close personal friend and confidant.
So, my message to you on your second birthday is simply this: You are awesome! Never, ever let anyone tell you that you are not awesome! Your boundless energy, your sweet demeanor, your irreplaceable kindness, your great intellect, your creative spirit, your steadfast determination, your extreme passion (or obsession) for being outside — it all comes together to make you a truly remarkable person.
Happy second birthday, Jackson Edward, your Grandpa Wagner loves you more than you will ever know!
Now, let’s go outside and play …