Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Caleb!

Some things never change.

My eldest son is one of them.

Last year, on his third birthday, I summed him up this way:
He's rambunctious, he's loud, he's busy, he's smart, he's curious, he's messy, and he only ever wants to play with anything with wheels.

He loves sharks and Tow Mater and diggers and dirt and figuring out how things are put together (or how they come apart, more often). He adores his big sister, tolerates his little brother, loves to wrestle with Daddy and has an unlimited supply of snuggles for Mommy.
A year later, every word still rings true. He's looking a little older, but his face still hasn't changed much since he was about six months old. It's still nearly impossible to tell how old he is when we look at old pictures. His cheese face is rarer than it once was, replaced more often now with a sweet smile, but it still breaks through every now and then, like when he opens his door on the morning of his birthday to find a great big Mater balloon waiting for him. (The same balloon we got him last year, apparently. I had forgotten all about it.)

He's growing closer to his little brother Jacob as they both get a little older, and finding it easier with each passing day to share and involve him in the complex adventures his imagination dreams up for the two of them. He's still the best problem solver of all our kids, by far, probably because he is the most patient of them. He will work for hours on one project or with one toy or activity until he knows every possible way it can be played with, manipulated, constructed and deconstructed. Of all of these, he seems to have a particular giftedness when it comes to deconstruction and demolition. Having Caleb in my house has enriched my understanding of the phrase "like a bull in a china shop."

When he's not breaking stuff or building stuff, he's talking. In fact, he's usually talking while he's breaking and building stuff. He starts talking as soon as he wakes up, and he doesn't really stop until shortly after we tuck him into bed each night. We're still waiting for him to reach his word-use quota, but it never happens. I've had to start offering him edible rewards for finishing his packed lunches on days when he eats lunch at Pre-K. Otherwise, he uses the opportunity when everyone else's mouth is busy eating to tell them everything that's on his mind. And there's a lot on his mind. He dreams up the most fantastical adventures for himself and his stuffed animals (which are almost exclusively sharks) and is regularly telling or retelling the story of Sharky's trip to the aquarium, or Big Shark's trip to the moon, or Baby Shark's birthday party, or Shark Hat's hike up the mountain, or Hand Puppet Shark's day at the zoo, and the list goes on and on. There is no limit to his imagination, and I can be certain of this because he keeps absolutely nothing to himself. He's a big time story-topper, and it's impossible to tell a story with Caleb present without him following up with a story of his own that begins, "Oh, well, Sharky did that once..."

He's strong, very strong, and does not know his own strength. He's captivated by the story of Samson in the Bible, and we've tried to use it to help Caleb understand the potential harm or good that can come from being so uniquely equipped. God blessed Samson with great strength, we tell our little linebacker. And what happened when Samson used his muscles for good?

"He did great things," Caleb will answer.

And what happened when Samson used his muscles carelessly?

"People got hurt," he'll reply.

He's a smart one, all right. But knowing and doing are two different things, and learning the self control to put all the good things he knows into practice is something we pray for him often.

But as Caleb moves into his fourth year of life, I see God beginning to give us a glimpse of the man he will become. If I had only one word to describe him, I would tell you without hesitation that my boy is tenderhearted. He has such a sweet spirit, and he cares about other's feelings in a way belies his age. It shows in his concern for those around him, in his sincerity, in his love for people, in the awesome hugs he gives, in the way he showers love on the members of his family. It is evident in the remorse he shows when he has disobeyed or hurt someone, intentionally or unintentionally. It is what makes him remind us multiple times before he goes to bed each night: "I love you so much, Mommy and Daddy." And then he stretches his little arms out as wide as they'll go, just so we can be sure: "I love you this much."

And then he waits for our reply, which is always the same. "We love you too, Caleb. You're our favorite Caleb in the whole wide world."

And with all my heart, I mean every word of it.

Happy birthday to my still-shark loving, truck driving, best-hugger-in-the-world, favorite four year old boy!

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