James Thomas came into this world after 30 plus hours of labor with a perfectly serene smile on his face. That same infectious, crinkly-eyed smile has been a constant for five wild, mischievous, rambunctious years. James’ complete fearlessness keeps us on our toes in wonder (and maybe a little fear, too), while his impish personality lights up his baby blues and beams out through his smile. He tests the limits of my patience on a daily basis with his crazy schemes and love of booby traps. His moniker, Dennis the Menace, is hard-won with his shenanigans that have taught me to fear equally prolonged silence and the sound of a toilet plunger.
But God knew what he was doing and just how much Tom and I could handle when he gave us James because for all his wild schemes, James has a heart of the purest gold. His servant’s heart holds an empathy for people that perfectly balances out his little boy trickeries.
I’ll never forget the time when I took him and Jackson to get their flu shots. James was only three years old and Jackson four when we showed up to the doctor’s office. Jackson, as the eldest, was first up. The knowledge of a scary shot was too much for Jack to bear and he was scared to go back with the nurse. He started to cry and beg me not to get a shot. Parents know the searing agony that comes when you’re forced to make a decision that you know is for the best for your child, but causes many tears. As I was waging a war inside myself and perilously close to giving in to Jack’s fears, James climbed down from my lap and looked up at me. James, with his big blue eyes and baby voice, put a hand on Jack’s arm and reassured, “Don’t worry, Jackson. I’ll go first so you don’t have to be scared.” He marched back with the nurse, looking back at his brother with all the bravado he could muster through a trembling lip, and waved to ease his brother’s mind.
Happy birthday, my sweet, sweet boy with the heart of a lion. We love you madly. You make me want to be better, braver, stronger every day. I love you.