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  • Writer's pictureMary Cook

A letter to my son, Jack, on his third birthday

It’s been about a month since my son, Jack, celebrated his 3rd birthday. And because this is such a significant milestone in my own life, I wrote him a letter.

I remember the day he was born like it was yesterday (I’m still pretty sure that it was yesterday…:). It was after 31 hours of labor (including four spent pushing…!), that I finally got to hold all 9lbs, 12oz of him – and wow was it worth it.

A letter to my son

I instantly fell in love with his chubby cheeks and full head of hair. I, Mary became a mother in that moment, something I had always prayed for and dreamed of. It's true when people say they can't explain the feeling of becoming a parent - because it truly is magical and absolutely indescribable.

As I reflect on the last three years, I’m flooded by all of the feels and a whole spectrum of emotions. I lost my mother at 3 years old, the same age Jack is now. And in just his 3 years of life, he has given me clarity about things I've wondered about my entire life. I wrote a letter to my son hoping that when he is older, he will be able to read it and understand how much he means to me.

So, here's to you Jack!


A letter to my son

My dearest Jack,

You just turned three years old. I still can’t believe it. It’s like I blinked and poof, there you are, my toddler - a sweet, caring, and full-of-energy mama’s boy. It’s hard to express in words the bond that we share and to tell you everything that you have helped me to realize about myself over the last three years, but I’m going to try.

a letter to my son

As you know, my mother, your bà ngoại died of stomach cancer when I was three. The same age as you are now. People often ask me if I remember my mother, and every time it pains me to say that I don’t. There’s a photo that was taken just before she died where she was wearing a wig and I’m sitting on her lap in a pink poofy dress – that single photo captures one of the very few moments that I can remember spending with her.

Being your mom has taught me so much about the relationship that I probably had with your bà ngoại. If it wasn't for you, I would have spent my entire life thinking that my existence was just a short moment in my mother’s life. But now I know that I meant everything to her, because you mean everything to me.

You are the most fun, loving and energetic 3-year-old boy that I know.

The fact that you’ll barely have your own memories from the first three years of your life is crazy. So, I want to share with you the memories that I have as they have meant so much to me. I need you to know that although you’ve only been in my life for three years, I can’t imagine life without you. I thank God everyday for you. You came into my world and taught me a whole new way of being. To be more present, to slow down, to listen intently, to fully live life with love, joy, and laughter.

a letter to my son

Not only have you spent a large part of your first few years growing and learning during a global pandemic but, at the same time, you’ve also had to adapt to the arrival of your baby brother Will. Talk about big changes! I’ve watched you go from a little boy who felt jealous of your new brother (as any older sibling would), to a big brother who protects his little brother, makes him laugh, tells him 'It’s okay, Jack’s here' when he cries and loves him with all of his heart. I’m so proud of you and the love that you have for Will. I look forward to the days where I get to watch you two play ball together, take walks together, catch bugs together, ride bikes together, play in the sandbox together, mow the lawn together, go to school together, do everything…together.

When we brought Will home, you taught me that it’s okay to show emotion.

I had been trying so hard to hide my emotions, to smile when life with a newborn was exhausting me, to pick myself up when my sister’s cancer took another wrong turn, and to continue being everything for you at the same time. But you, son, showed your emotion. You were vulnerable, you got jealous, you were human! By comforting you, I understood that I was allowed to comfort myself too. So, thank you. Thank you for showing me that we don’t always have to put on a brave face and keep going. Often the healthiest thing to do is to express how we feel. I hope that you always continue to be true to yourself in that way.

Jack, you are a beautiful child in every sense of the word.

a letter to my son

You’ve shown me what it really means to appreciate the small things and be present. You stop to examine every anthill on our walks and think they are the most fascinating insects. You notice the random fly that lands on our picnic table. You say, ‘oh bird!’ every time you see a robin fly. You encourage me to be fearless—which at times can be a little scary.Your character is to do whatever you please, even if that means climbing up on our steep wood stairs and catapulting off of the top steps as if you were an airplane taking off. You make new friends like it’s your job.No nerves or concerns about what they will think about you. You just go right up to them and play like you’ve known them your entire life. I envy that about you.

You truly live life not caring what others think. Like when you wore a band-aid on your cheek for no reason for weeks, but thought it was the coolest thing. When you feel like dancing, you dance. When you feel like bursting out in song, you do. It puts a smile on my face when I hear you sing at random – like out of nowhere as I’m driving, I hear from the back seat ‘!’ loudly in your deep raspy voice. Jack, you show me how to live and enjoy life in the best way possible.

You are an explorer and love discovering new things.

You celebrate each day by saying, "it's a sunny day", regardless of whether the sun is out or not. You ask, “what does that mean?” more than a million times a day. You are so smart and have taught me more about construction vehicles and dinosaurs than I even care to know. You have also taught me to be more patient. You, kid, know how to test your mother's patience. In many instances, it’s because you want my attention and want to know that I am listening to you or care. It’s in these moments that I’ve learned to slow down, pause, and comfort you.

Wednesdays are our days together. It’s the day I look forward to the most every week. No work, just you and I. If there’s ever a time when we don’t get to spend that day together, I hope you know that I’m thinking about you and remembering the time we used to spend cuddling on the couch, singing and dancing together, going down tunnel slides at the playground, taking long neighborhood walks, playing with play-doh, checking out the turtles at the library, exploring the museum, stuffing ourselves with watermelon, reading books after books, and doing all of the things you loved the most.

Jack, you’ve changed my life and I want you to know that.

You have been my biggest supporter giving me all of the encouragement I could ever need. Life doesn’t always go to plan or as expected, but you can always know that without you, I would never have understood the relationship that I probably had with my own mother, your bà ngoại. I would have continued into adulthood thinking that I didn't have a bond with her. But because of you, I know now that I absolutely did and if it's anything like what we have, that's pretty incredible. So, thank you!

I love you so much Jack Ryan Cook. I've seen you grow from a tiny (but very large) baby into a little boy with so much heart. Your third year of life is so meaningful to me in a lot of ways, and I hope you know that. I feel very blessed to be your mom. It’s everything I imagined and more.

I love you son!


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