"Help! Help! I don't know what to do!" wailed my 5 year old recently. While I was bustling around the house trying to get everything we need to leave before taking Boogs to school, my youngest was busy pulling things out of the packed snack bag we bring to the gym. He managed to find an open bag of goldfish crackers and fling them around the front hall. He was quite pleased with himself. He loved the sound of the crinkling bag, the rain of goldfish crackers, and how he single handedly added to the decor of the front hall.
My oldest who prefers order and knows that this was a "no-no" was overwhelmed. On his knees by the front door he was wailing about how he didn't know what to do. I looked at him in frustration and thought: Have I really been this negligent in your upbringing that you don't know what to do? Do you really need me to tell you what to do? Just stick them back in the bag! In the meantime, my middle child sitting next to her big brother says, "Just do this" as she pops a goldfish into her mouth and into her baby brother's mouth. I finally chime in with, "5 second rule, just put them back in the bag!"
In those 5 seconds I caught a glimpse of my children's character:
My 5 year old is a rule follower. He has very strong sense of what is just and right. Most things are black and white and not a lot in between. He needs to be told what to do and he'll do it. He looks to me and his father for approval and for permission. Disappointment goes a long way for him.
My 3 year old, my middle child, goes with the flow. She's an observer and uses her common sense. She's never had the luxury of being an only child and always having things done for her. She's usually taught to do something much earlier than when I taught her older brother. Putting on her jacket, putting on her shoes, dressing herself, cleaning up after herself. At 3, I sometimes forget that she's not 5. I have a lot of expectations for how she should behave and I forget she's still a munchkin. She's my more adventurous child, willing to push the boundaries just a bit more than her older brother.
It's very clear in those 5 seconds that I have brought them up a little differently. They each bring something wonderful to the table, but they are different in how they'll approach a problem or situation. It's in this that I realize that I'll have to guide my oldest to using his common sense and do things on his own. Not always asking how to do it, but to figure it out on his own. He's, ahem, a lot like his Mama. Part of it is his birth order, another is just who he is...and he is without a doubt his mother's child.
I think having a little sister is good for him. She teaches him how to look at a problem in a new way with a unique way to solve it. He brings a little more structure to her adventurous tendencies. Together they make a good team...if only I can get them to work together more often. And, without a doubt, they are totally devoted to their younger brother who is turning into his own little person :)