Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mainly About Jack

I’ve been looking for time to get to know my two-year-old grandson, Jack, a little bit better. Because he is the second child, and content to amuse himself happily, I think I tend to respond to his older brother’s exciting and dramatic ideas. Joey awakens with plans fully formed in his mind and I love helping him accomplish them. If this is true of Jack, no one knows because he is quieter, tends to think things through and because he’s younger and less likely to speak up as quickly.

This weekend Joey and Jack stayed with us and I was blessed to be able to get to know Jack better.

I’ve always been drawn to Jack’s personality. That may be because I am also a second child, but I remember one afternoon when he was tiny and snuggled in his infant seat, I bent close to talk to him. Looking in those wide, infant eyes, I saw, unmistakably, intelligence and understanding. He “cooed” at me, though he was merely three weeks old. Maybe it was his many-toned voice, or those wondering eyes, but I got the feeling that this child had the special, deep gifts of love, wisdom and creativity.

Two year old children are interesting creatures. I love the scampering, eager way they run, love their attempts at conversation. Their wills emerge in a passion they cannot control but feel acutely. Their unreasonable displays of temper show this. Yet they are also becoming reasonable, learning their words, that they must eat and sleep, naming their colors, executing the intricacies of grammar, becoming sure of the ways that families work, delighting in the wonders of nature. This twin intellectual development of reason and will makes for some strange behavior.

My instinct about Jack having great love has proven true. He is a sweet child, always affectionate. When I pick him up or show him affection, he whispers, “I love you, too, Grannie.” I think this shows an amazing depth of understanding. So when this loving, sweet child has a complete screaming meltdown, it stops everything.
Jack with the play-doh cobra that Aunt Care made for him

The first meltdown this weekend happened when I thought I ought to bathe the boys on Friday night. They weren’t really that dirty, but, I was trying to take care of them. Upstairs we went and Jack started to scream. Not cry. Scream. It was high pitched, intense, hysterical screaming.

“What’s wrong Jack?” I asked.

Hand shaking, he pointed into the tub where a little orange basketball and Noah’s ark, full of plastic animals waited.


His hysteria was so intense that I was actually alarmed. I took out Noah and his animals and put them on the bath mat. I turned the water on and took off Jack’s shirt.

His screaming escalated, tears running down his face. “GET THAT BALL! GET IT OUT THERE!”

I gave him the ball, which he clutched to his chest. I turned the water off thinking the sound of its rushing into the tub might be what was frightening him. He was so upset I wasn’t sure what to do. He must have sensed my hesitation and begged, “JUST WIPE ME DOWN! JUST WIPE ME DOWN!” His solution, I guess, to getting in the tub.

I decided to postpone the bath.

Though I know that two-year-olds experience irrational fears, I hadn’t really expected it in Jack because he’s the kind of kid who enjoys things. He brings a sense of wonder and excitement to most of life’s events.
playing "Billy Goats Gruff" on the bridge at the playground. I had to be the troll.

On Saturday we had lots of fun. We went to a “Thomas The Tank Engine” event at Toys R Us, everyone played hard, ate well, and Jack took a great nap. We went to a couple of playgrounds and played in the back yard so that by the time we were getting ready to watch a movie before bed on Saturday night, the boys were pretty grimy and needed that postponed bath.

I thought I’d get the water ready before I mentioned it.

I took Jack upstairs to a tub filled with warm bubbly water and the crying began again. This time, he whispered, “I not go down drain.”

“No,” I said, understanding the desperate hope in his statement. “You’re too big to fit.” I don’t know what else I said, but he got into the tub with only a bit of a whimper and once in there, he grabbed Noah’s ark and kept his arms around it while I washed his hair. A few times, he patted the bubbles and seemed to be enjoying the warm water, but his main focus was that ark full of animals and when I took him out, again he screamed, “GET IT OUT THERE!” Which of course I did.

We watched the water swirl down the drain with Noah and his animals safely in Jack’s little arms.

My husband had visited the library and found a Benji movie for the boys to see. If you don’t know Benji, he’s a little dog, some sort of smart, heroic terrier. In this movie, Benji was lost in the mountain wilds of the Pacific Northwest. Benji’s heroic heart is roused to action when four mountain lion cubs are orphaned (shot by a man hunter). He spends the movie providing food for them, fending off predators, making friends with bunnies and owls and trying to convince a neighboring mountain lion to adopt the four orphans.

Jack sat with me for part of the movie, but after a while, got down to pick up some of his favorite toys (as many as he can carry) and hold them. He was standing thus, arms filled, when the movie showed a hawk circling above Benji’s brood. Though Benji barked, the hawk swooped down and got one of the kittens!

“Shocking! Why put that in a kids’ movie! Ridiculous!” were my thoughts. I knew Joey was comfortable with the food chain idea, and I was sure Jack would not understand.

I was wrong.

He turned toward me. Tears welled in is wide blue eyes and his mouth trembled. He let out a wail, dropped his toys and ran to me. I picked him up and he sobbed onto my shoulder.

Of course I felt horrible for letting him see that, Horrible. When I saw that the movie was showing the neighboring lion walking in a lovely high mountain meadow with her one cub, I “rewrote” the script and told him that the hawk had carried the kitten to the mountain lion. This may not be strictly right or honest, but I often “rewrite” scripts when I can’t bear an ending. Especially a stupid one like this one. What would it have hurt in the vast universe if all four of those kittens had made it to the end?
sweet awhile ago

Jack took comfort in seeing the Benji struggle to carry the remaining kittens up the rocky mountain slope to the meadow where family awaited them. I suppose my little Jack, his heart full of compassion and love, identified with Benji’s brave demonstration of love. May you find the strength and means to protect and love all those in danger, my dear, brave Jack.


  1. Oh my mothers heart just loved this post... loved that you took the time to truly get to know the intricacies of this second child... so often most people put all the focus on the oldest and it is so hard as a mom to watch that play out with your kids. I love your love for him and his individuality.

  2. i really loved reading this.

  3. Great pictures. where is this?