I’ve always wanted the kids to be fluent in another language.
Nick, thanks to his grandmother’s fluency, has shown a certain flair for Spanish. Olivia, thanks to my fluency – and perhaps her fashion sense – has shown an interest in French.
Then there’s Gabe, who is fluent in Whinese. In fact, he knows several dialects.
Our middle child has made it abundantly clear that he is not a morning person. While his sister is screaming for oatmeal at 5:30am, Gabe is sleepwalking his way – 2 hours later – thru getting dressed, hitting the toilet, and sliding his way down the stairs for breakfast. Once there, he is all limp bones and floppy muscles, sometimes too weak to even drag himself onto the chair. Instead he’ll lay down on the floor, 2 fingers in his mouth, his other hand clutching a snuggie as he communes with the dog (also, on the floor).
“Gabe, can you come to the table to eat? You’re going to be hungry later.”
It’s 8am and he’s had a full 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep, but somehow, the task of lifting his featherweight body off the floor is simply too much.
“I caaaaaaan’t,” he whimpers, as he “tries” and fails to lift his head from the hardwood floor.
“Here, let me help you,” I chirp, channeling any 50’s era mom I can summon as I unceremoniously plop his sack-of-potatoes body next to his brother.
“Gabe, can you pass the brown sugar?” Nick points to the bag located 2 centimeters in front of Gabe’s plate.
Gabe raises a limp hand to his chest.
“I caaaaaaaan’t,” he mews, and Nick harrumphs impatiently, eschewing the table manners we’re trying to instill and reaches across his brother – barely brushing Gabe’s arm – to get the sugar himself.
“It’s right THERE, Gabe” – to which Gabe responds with his second favorite dialect:
Gabe miraculously finds his voice, and his muscle tone. He wrests 2 fingers from his mouth and stabs the air indignantly.
“Nick PUSHED ME!”
Nick raises his voice to match his brother’s. While it’s not quite a shouting match, we’re clearly on the express train to Yellsville.
“NO, I did NOT.”
“Stop YELLING AT ME!”
“I DID NOT YELL!”
And here we are.
Olivia thinks to whole thing is a hoot and starts chiming in with a mix-list of loud – and random – words. “MORE….YEAH….OWIE….OATMEAL…” which launches Gabe into his 3rd dialect:
“I don’t feel good.”
Gabe’s ability to switch from Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell to Greta Garbo’s Camille is astounding. And my dear, sweet boy will now lay that precious head on his plate, just barely avoiding the food on it in 3…2…OK, his nose is actually touching his eggs.
“I have a tummy ache.”
“Uh huh.” I try very hard to keep the eye-rolling out of my voice.
Nick, however, does not.
“He’s just faking it so he doesn’t have to eat!”
“I’m going to throw up.” Kid, if you can make yourself do that by sheer will alone, I’ve got a Vine with your face on it. But until then, I’ll just acknowledge – but not encourage – your “illness.”
“Why don’t we pack up your breakfast and save it for later.”
“But I need to eat!”
I’m about to point out the error of his thinking, when Lori raises her eyebrows asking if I’m really going to argue logic with a 3-year-old.
“Ok, Gabe. You do what you need to do.”
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how I throw the whining elephant…until he starts up again when we get to the car. (“I caaaaaaan’t buckle my seat belt! Nick is looooking at me! I hurt my fingeeerrrrrr!”)
I feel for Gabe.
I really do.
In fact, I feel for all of our kids. They have to compete with each other, our dog, our business, our aging parents, this 100-year-old house…
It’s no surprise they each have “the thing” they save just for home, just for us.
For Nick, it’s arguing.
In class, he’s the resident diplomat, protector of geeky kids…and ladybugs.
For Olivia, it’s hitting.
In daycare, she’s the free hugs gal, greeting everyone – including other parents at drop-off – with a squeeze.
And for Gabe, it’s whining.
In preschool, he’s the teacher’s right-hand man, setting the table, cleaning up spills, consoling other kids…with nary a complaint.
But it’s different at home. And there are times when I question our desire to add more to the mix, when our dispersed attention seems to bring out the worst – not the best – in our children. As a former adoption counselor put it, perhaps we were being “too greedy” in our quest for expansion.
But then I see our 3 musketeers…
Nick, laying out coats and backpacks for his siblings.
Gabe placing pairs of shoes for each of us by the door.
Olivia, carrying cups from the table to the sink.
And I think Yes! Yes! A 100 times Yes!
Let our presence fill every inch of this forever fixing-up home.
Let our lives overflow with our children’s highs and lows.
Let our hearts be humbled by the privilege of raising these complex individuals.
Because our table will always have room for one more.