If you would have told me that Matthew would become such an incredible young man, I never would have believed it to be possible. He has always had a heart of gold, but now he has a heart of gold and is also a responsible young man who has a business mowing lawns in the summer time. He struggles so much with forming relationships with people his own age, but he is truly seen as a gem among seniors, little kids and adults. He can relate to a 2 year old and make them feel so special. When Jacob has friends over they beg to hang out with Matthew and he engages with them so well. Often I think this is because he missed a lot of being an 8-10 year old because he was in crisis for so much of this time period in his life.
We went recently to Washington DC and Matthew loved seeing the monuments. He enjoyed many of the museums but he did them all at his own time and pace. For Matthew seeing the monuments and the White House were his favorite parts. For me, I enjoyed being with Matthew on this vacation. Often he can be exhausting, but this time he was much more able to enjoy time with the family and then he was also able to take a few moments away from the family when he needed to take a break and then return. It was truly fantastic to be with him and to watch him enjoy himself. We were so lucky to spend time with my kids, my parents and my brothers family in Washington.
David is spending this year preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. I am working hard to remind myself that if he says a word during his service "Dayenu, it will be enough". While my head knows this, my heart continues to travel back in time to when he was born and I had him conquering the sun, the moon and the stars. It feels like David has come so far in some ways, and yet has so far to go in other ways.
In preparing for our trip to Washington David studied so many books. He must have carried Washington DC books around with him for months as he prepared for this trip. That said, it is a challenge for him to answer "wh" questions. "where do you want to go?", "what do you want to see", all of these questions are a challenge for David and typically end is silence. While he adored every moment that he was with his cousins, at one point he was frustrated because he feared we were leaving Washington and while we knew he was upset, we didn't know why. As we asked "wh" questions, he could give us no answers.
"where do you want to do?"
"what do you want to see?"
"Why are you mad?"
All of these questions led to silence. Finally, my dad started offering him places he might want to see and my dad stumbled upon the answer. David could not leave Washington without seeing the Martin Luther King Memorial. Once this was known calmness returned and all was good. We assured David that we were going to the memorial the next morning, and David once again returned to a happy child who truly enjoyed every single moment in Washington.
David toured Washington DC mostly with his cousin. They conquered every Smithsonian together and she went with him with such true love and caring. She allowed him to set the pace, and he talked to her throughout every museum. I followed along giddy with excitement to see him so happy. For a child who has few moments with peers, it brought me such joy to see him independently wandering through the museums with his cousin. My niece loved every moment with David and she was able to get him to talk and share these moments in the museum with her. Truly seeing David with his cousin was a huge highlight of our trip for me.
For Jacob, Washington seemed to be more about him uncovering who he is. Jacob is struggling with his identity as a young black, Jewish man in America. For Jacob seeing the history of African Americans at the African American Smithsonian was intense. Knowing that Donald Trump is becoming our next President is truly scary for Jacob. He was scared to uncover the roots of slavery and to learn about sit ins and the fights for equal rights. While he was scared he also was interested and so this made Washington at times an emotional roller coaster for Jacob.
I was so proud of the way that he made sure he saw the counter where the sit ins occurred. While he was tired, and presented as not being interested, once we found the lunch counter, he stood and paid attention to the seriousness of this moment.
He was taken with Mohammed Ali's boxing gloves that we saw at the National Museum of American History.
My favorite moment with Jacob was as we left the Museum of American History. He saw people selling Black Lives Matter sweatshirts and he stood and looked at the table for a few moments. As he stood he asked me for a sweatshirt. When they did not have a sweatshirt that fit him, he asked me to go to the next table to find the sweatshirt. Again, they did not have his size. There were multiple sweatshirt options, but he was clear he wanted a plain sweatshirt that simply said "Black Lives Matter". After a few moments I decided we would buy one that was one size too large as it was important to Jacob and symbolized to me that he understood all that we had seen in Washington.
I am not sure that I have ever been more proud of Jacob than I was in that moment. He is learning to embrace himself, his culture and his history, and for that I am SO proud!
I know that I alone cannot teach him all that he needs to know about who he is and the history that creates him as a person, but I am working hard to surround him with people who can teach him to be a strong Black man. His purchase of that sweatshirt tells me that he is embracing with pride the history of Black people. To me, that was a goal of our trip to Washington. I wanted all 3 of my boys to embrace the messages of Dr Martin Luther King. In this time of turbulence in our country, I needed my boys to feel the pride of having President Obama in office. This sweatshirt symbolized that Jacob understood, and we left with me feeling a strong accomplishment.