We named our third son Gabriel. In his three-and-a-half years on this planet, he has failed to live up to his Biblical namesake, the archangel and pillar of uprightness who usually showed up as a representative of the Lord of Hosts. You would think Gabe would be tall and strong, full of integrity and honor, slow to speak, wise beyond knowing, calm and collected and sure.
This is not the case.
Gabe is a handful. He often requires one parent or other responsible adult assigned specifically to him. He’s either really happy or really upset — and he can get pretty upset. It’s all out there for anyone to see. Joy or devastation, and not much in between.
He’s the kid who will commit some egregious offense — throwing down his brother’s carefully built Lego creation, for instance — and then while getting a lecture and/or other discipline, will pucker up and plant one on you with a laugh. It’s impossible to keep a straight face when he does that.
When he walks up to you sometimes, you’re not sure if he’s going to hit you or hug you, so you have to brace yourself. He’ll also try to talk his way out of getting in trouble. “I’m going to be nicer,” he’ll say. “I’m not going to do that anymore.”
The dimple in his left cheek makes him impossibly cute when he smiles. That’s probably gonna save him a few times. He loves to make other people laugh, often at the dinner table, and often instead of partaking in the food he’s supposed to be eating. (Unless it’s chips. He really loves chips.) He’s usually darting glances at his siblings, trying to get their attention, trying to amuse them, trying to distract them when we’re talking. I’ve already preemptively apologized to his future teachers for the class clown headed their way.
He talks endlessly, saying the same thing over and over, his voice getting higher and higher, talking right over you and then talking some more until something in your brain finally snaps and you (gently, gently) take his chubby little face between your hands and somehow spit out just one word: “STOP!”
If he’s not happy with something you’ve said, he’ll go, “Aw, nuts!” When he’s mad, it’s full-fledged fury, arms folded, crying, yelling, fussing, pouting, loud. Did I mention he has red hair? Could be part of the problem.
But lately, he’s been sweeter. He wants more hugs. When you tell him to do something he says, “Okay!” in a cheerful voice and runs off to do it. He comes into the room and waves a quiet, sweet little wave that melts your heart. He gives real kisses now, instead of trying to fake you out by pretending he’s going to kiss you and instead sticking out his tongue and licking your cheek, laughing the whole time.
He rubs your back. He lays beside you. He smiles more. He tells the truth instead of lying about what he did. He talks in sentences. He says “Thanks!” when you hand him just about anything.
He’s very cute these days, and he’s winning our hearts. He’s going to be a hero or a clown someday, but he won’t be middle-of-the-road. He still has a long ways to go to live up to his namesake, but there’s really only one way for that to happen, and we need to spend much time on our knees asking for that.
In the meantime, we’ll love him and laugh with him — but always with one eye out for trouble.