My Firstborn is 13

My heart is a bit twisted up this morning, but I want to do my best to share a piece of it with you today.

Jessica and I have been friends since 7th grade. Since her first day as the new girl in Mrs. Harris’s biology class, she was always an enigma to me. While the rest of us were consumed with preteen insecurity and self-doubt, Jessica appeared unfazed. She laughed at life’s absurdities. She was sarcastic, yet sincere, wearing her heart on her sleeve. She spoke her mind. She joked. She cried. Unlike the rest of us, she seemed to make no attempt to hide who she was. Concern for “being cool” or what the crowd was doing was the least of her motivations.

Kids made fun of Jessica for being weird and different back then. But a lot of us were lucky enough to make friends with her. We looked up to her. A hard childhood had formed her into a leader, a first among equals, and eminently worthy of admiration. As we grew and the school years went on, most of the teasing she endured passed away. By the time we graduated I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who hadn’t grown to see how Jessica stood among the sincerest, funniest, and most fearless people on the planet.

Jessica and I were dating and probably no more than 17 years old when she looked me straight in the eye one night and said, “I’m going to marry you, Matt Poppe.”

On another night (I think probably our senior year), she let me know that for years her doctors had said she would probably never have children. “But the doctors are wrong,” she told me.

I doubted, yet hoped and prayed right along with her, and the two of us, still in high school, decided to name our first child Isaac. It carried special meaning to us for a couple reasons. First, Isaac was the name Abraham and Sarah chose for the child that God gave them after enduring a lifetime of infertility (for any of you godless pagans reading this, that story is in the book of Genesis). Second, Isaac means some variation of “laughter” or “to laugh” (depending on who you ask). So the name seemed almost too perfect for an infertile couple that was wholly unable to go 10 minutes without cracking a joke.

We were married just a couple years after that, and Jessica was pregnant immediately. But our joy was short-lived after losing the baby to miscarriage (our first of many miscarriages). Still, God didn’t make us wait long for Isaac. He was born just a couple months after our first anniversary. He was and is one of God’s many assurances of faith to us. He came into our lives during a grief-filled and bittersweet first year of marriage, yet has been a source of joy and laughter surpassing anything we could have imagined.

Today, is Isaac's 13th birthday. He is his own kid, now entering the 8th grade and dealing with all the awkwardness that junior high brings. In a lot of ways I wish I had handled that time in my life the way he’s doing it now. He pokes fun at puberty. He is concerned very little with “being cool”. Isaac is a weird, nerdy kid who has endured teasing yet keeps on being his weird, nerdy self anyway. He’s laughing at life's absurdities with the sharpest wit of any junior high kid I’ve ever met.

Except for one.

He has his mother’s wonderful spirit, through and through.