Wait a second…isn’t this a blog about Star Trek fan films??? What does Jonathan’s kid have to do with that?
Nothing at all whatsoever! So if you’re not interested in what I have to say as a proud father, feel free to skip this one. Most likely, it’ll just get views from family members and a few friends, and I’m fine with that. Y’see, Jayden knows I spend a lot of time blogging about fan films. But today I am going to blog about him.
Wednesday night, after his final day at Echo Horizon School after seven years, Jayden came into the kitchen as I was finishing making his dinner. As he walked to the refrigerator to get his milk, he said, “I’m sorry for growing up.”
On the one hand, yes, the last twelve and a half years have flown by at warp speed, and that tiny premie newborn that we brought home to Los Angeles from Shreveport, LA has grown nearly as tall as his old man and is already towering over his Mommy! But apologizing for growing up? No way!
I told Jayden that he never needed to apologize for growing up because he’s becoming such an incredible person…and Mommy and I get to be a part of it all. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to both of us.
And to inject a little Star Trek into this indulgently non-Trek blog, I see Jayden right now as my own little Deep Space Nine. What does that mean? Starting at the age of four, Jayden and I began watching Star Trek together…and one of my greatest blessings has been that he LOVES it. It’s one of our “things.” We watched TOS, TAS, TOS again (because he was too young when we first watched it to remember), TNG, the TOS and Generations movies in chronological order, and now we’re into season four of DS9 and about to start season two of Voyager.
Jayden absolutely ADORES Deep Space 9, although he’s lukewarm at best on Voyager (I’m kinda the same way, but we’re trudging on through the series). We just watched “The Way of the Warrior” and “The Visitor,” and as most fans of DS9 know, season four was the beginning of the four-season Dominion War arc. Therefore, I know what’s coming, and I am so looking forward to sharing those next 100-or-so episodes with him. And yes, we’ll need to get through Voyager‘s “Threshold” and debate whether “Tuvix” should have been separated, but Jayden will also get to meet Seven-of-Nine before too long and see other decent Voyager episodes that bring back Barclay and Troi. Jayden will ask me if Harry Kim will ever get promoted, and I’ll say, “Watch and find out!” (BWHAHAHHAHAH!) He’ll watch Sisko toast to his own tainted moral compass “In the Pale Moonlight,” discover Vic Fontaine, Weyoun, and see Gul Dukat’s descent into madness.
In other words, we’ve shared so much together, but so much more is coming our way! And that’s how I feel about Jayden himself. So let me tell you a little about this incredible person…
Jayden is a Trekkie, a techie, a comedian, an athlete, an amazing student, a loyal friend and confidant, a total prude (unlike his dad!), a socially-confident leader, and most of all, a heart of gold looking to help make the world a more fair and equitable place. He is Ron DeSantis’ woke nightmare, having gone to an amazing school that not only allows children to discover who they truly are but also encourages them to accept their peers and support them.
There is no bullying at Echo Horizon School, and Jayden’s class has always been filled with stand-out kids who truly love each other. The school began mainstreaming deaf and hearing-impaired children together with hearing-abled peers back in 1983, and 15% of their current student population is DHH (dead or hard-of-hearing). Jayden is not, although he is ADHD. The school is supportive of all of its students in so many ways. Teachers wear special microphones around their necks as the teach, wifi’d directly into the cochlear implants of their DHH students so they can hear what the teacher is saying no matter where they walk in the classroom. Each grade has a DHH specialist, and fully deaf students are given a signer when they need one. It’s such an amazing place, and we are so going to miss it.
But again, let me tell you a little about Jayden himself…
Y’know how some kids will carry a sketchbook around and constantly draw or doodle? Or some other kids will play music on any instrument available? Well, Jayden codes. He carries his laptop nearly everywhere he goes, creating his own computer games (he’s made literally dozens, more than I can count!). Here’s a sample of his latest, a work-in-progress based on the popular Undertale Video Game (it’s kind of a fan film of a game—or a fan game, which apparently is a thing with the kids these days)…
Some parents limit their children’s computer time to one or two hours a day. We don’t. Jayden’s ADHD allows him to hyper-focus, and he’ll sometimes spend six or seven hours coding a game…or even just part of a game. And he’ll do it while watching a YouTube video in the background on his other computer and/or talking with friends on FaceTime. His ability to multi-task (also related to ADHD) absolutely astounds me.
Are we too permissive about electronics? Perhaps. But parents of artists don’t limit their child’s drawing time, so we don’t limit his computer time. We simply make sure that Jayden also has other interests and activities (other than coming downstairs for meals or snacks) that get him out of his room and out of the house!
THE ROBOT BUILDER
Jayden himself was always a builder of things, from forts made out of pillows to legos and other creative toys, to cardboard sculptures glued together with Elmer’s. So it seemed only logical to sign him up for a robotics class. Three weeks later, the world shut itself away inside of our homes as a global pandemic overtook humanity. So we bought Jayden a VEX-IQ Robotics kit for $499, and for the next year, he participated in robotics classes at home though Zoom on his computer. The following year, at age 11, Jayden took his robotics team (as captain) to the VEX-IQ Robotics California State Finals, earning the Judge’s Award.
This past May, Jayden co-captained a larger robotics team to the VEX-IQ World Championship Tournament, a three-day event at the Dallas Convention Center where 800 teams from around the globe competed. Jayden’s team qualified by earning the Think Award at the State Finals level. Each day of the event, I recorded short videos of Jayden highlighting certain aspects of the competition, along with some of his matches, and e-mailed them to his teachers back at Echo Horizon to show in homeroom class. All of fifth and sixth grade were rooting for Jayden that week. And even though his team didn’t win (nearly impossible to beat the Chinese teams because they tend to cheat by having adults instead of the kids design the robots), Jayden nevertheless returned to school the following Monday a total rock star!
Yeah, Jayden’s a total nerd, loving coding, robotics, video games, sci-fi, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Babylon 5, science in general, superheroes, and even James Bond. But unlike his dad, Jayden is also an athlete…and a damn impressive one! He did gymnastics since the age of one-and-a-half and rose to become a Level-2 USA Gymnast until Covid closed down the Superkids Gymnastics facility that he attended until the age of nine. But he also took karate from the age of four through today and is currently a purple belt (two steps below black belt) in Shorinjiryu Karate-do Renshinkan. He’s a pretty decent basketball player (tallest boy in his class…he’d better be!) and took tennis lessons for a few years (also interrupted by Covid). He’s a strong swimmer, very high jumper, and fast runner…although mild asthma limits him more to a sprint than a marathon. And his nickname on the soccer field last year was “Lazer” Lane because of his kicks on goal. So yes, our computer geek is ALSO a skilled and active athlete—I had no idea that was even possible!!!
Thank goodness my kid has a sense of humor! I totally need an audience for my Dad Jokes! Of course, when you teach a padawan who is already strong with the Force, he quickly becomes a Jedi master. As such, Jayden made up his first joke when he was only five: “Why are apples always hungry? Because they have an apple-tite.” More recently, shortly after learning decimal division in math, Jayden told me that he wasn’t able to divide one by five because he got too tense. (Say it out loud; you’ll get it.) And as we prepared to leave for his graduation ceremony, grabbing a box of tissues, Mommy and Mimi were already crying waterfalls. Jayden’s comment: “The National Weather Service is issuing a flash flood warning today in our school auditorium.”
Seriously, how much do I love this kid?
Jayden isn’t the smartest student in his class, and he’ll happily admit it because Roger is like a walking future Jeopardy champion! But Jayden holds his own pretty decently, especially in math and science. But he’s also a strong writer, which was a struggle for him during Covid as he entered fourth grade in virtual school. Amusingly, Jayden’s tech-savviness made the transition to online classes a breeze for him, as he quickly mastered Zoom, Google Docs, PowerPoint, and a host of other online tools. However, ADHD was still a challenge, exacerbated by executive functioning issues. But it takes a village, and with help from Mommy and Daddy, very dedicated and patient teachers, and a wonderful educational therapist, Jayden’s reading and especially writing survived and thrived during Covid, catching up to his grade level, and now his writing is as strong as his math and science.
Jayden also incorporates tech into many of his school assignments, so much so that it was the subject of his speech at sixth grade graduation (each of the 20 kids in his class wrote and presented a speech). I’m so proud of how poised and mature Jayden was as he gave his speech…
I should mention that Jayden has a mind like a sponge when it comes to crazy trivia he learns on YouTube videos. Just the other night, our family was watching the movie Twins with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. “Did you know,” said Jayden, “that Arnold Schwarzenegger is the new Chief Action Officer at Netflix?” Huh? Well, apparently, it’s true! These and other random facts spew forth from our son’s mouth with unexpected but welcome regularity.
THE CITIZEN OF THE WORLD
It breaks my heart seeing some states, fearful of “wrong” thinking, terrorizing their teachers as parents and politicians try to isolate and insulate their children from what some consider to be forbidden and banned knowledge. Ironically, the word “knowledge” itself comes from an origin of “capacity for understanding” and “awareness.”
Fortunately for us and Jayden, his school never tried to hide the world from its students. Indeed, Echo Horizon is particularly proud of its JEDI program: Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Nurturing a multi-racial and multi-ethnic community of both students and teachers, children at Jayden’s now-former school learn about people and traditions from around the globe, studying both the challenges and triumphs of coming together in peace, cooperation, and friendship. The school engages in activities to help the homeless, raise money for charities, and even to clean up the environment. I love this following video that Jayden’s science class made a month ago after their unit on composting—using Jayden’s project: the COMPOSTO-BOT. Check it out…
Jayden has grown up surrounded by classmates from a wide diversity of backgrounds. He has close friends who are white and non-white, Christian and non-Christian, religious and non-religious, straight and gay, binary and non-binary, but ALWAYS non-judgmental and non-prejudiced. The parents, too! Teachers there need not fear making the “wrong” casual comment on the “wrong” subject, sharing the “wrong” book, or using the “wrong” pronoun. Their students’ hearts and minds remain open and tolerant, as they prepare themselves for a world that solely needs them.
I thank you for indulging my 2,000 words about our incredible (not so) little boy and his impressive achievements. Like Deep Space Nine, there is still a LOT of journey still to come, and I’m looking forward to every minute of it. And while I know that raising a teenager can be filled with stress and drama, very adult problems and challenging issues like alcohol and drugs and pregnancy—and we’re barely three years away from Jayden driving(!!!)—I know that, at his core, Jayden has a heart of gold, incredible empathy, and a drive and determination that will take him far and get us through whatever challenges await us. The Dominion War was also filled with battles and strife, but the Alpha Quadrant survived that, too.
Jayden, your Mom and I couldn’t be more proud of the awesome person you are and are becoming. And every spontaneous “I love you, Mommy” and “I love you, Daddy” that comes from our little boo-boo just reminds us again how blessed are we to have you as our amazing son. We love you, too, Jayden…to the moon and back infinite times!