The other day I was in the middle of folding laundry when String Bean came rushing to me, in tears, so hysterical that she could barely speak to tell me what was wrong. I asked her a few times what had happened, and finally she was able to choke out: “Your paper fell into the dog’s water!” Apparently, the little notepad I use to jot down my grocery lists had fallen off the counter, and into the dog’s water bowl, where she found it floating, and this is what sent her into tears on my behalf. When I laughed it off, she looked shocked. “I thought you’d be sad!” she sobbed. “I get them four for a dollar at the dollar store,” I told her. “I have two more of them in the drawer.” She stopped crying, but kept looking at me with such a pained expression that I had to stop folding towels and give her a big hug. That finally seemed to do the trick, and she calmed down.
What is it that makes some kids so emotional, and others so even-tempered? Peanut wouldn’t shed a tear over the loss of any material object, no matter how big or small. She’d just shake it off and move on instantly, although she’d want to talk about it every ten minutes for the next three days. Never in any sorrowful way, she’d just marvel at how something she once had no longer exists, the way she’ll tell total strangers that we used to have two cats, but one died, so now we only have one. To her it’s all just conversation. String Bean, on the other hand, left a sticker on one of her sweaters, and it went through the wash, deteriorating the sticker into a sticky gray mess. She literally broke into tears when she saw it.
I’m hoping that as she grows up, String Bean will become a little better at filtering the true crises from the little speed bumps and won’t break into tears over quite so many things. But I can also appreciate that as the more emotional child, not only is she more likely to yell, cry, and gnash her teeth in anger, but she’s more likely to tell me she loves me, beg me to spend just a few more minutes cuddling before leaving her in bed for the night, and overflow with gratitude at a new pair of pink socks. Peanut isn’t as quick to cry or become angry, but she’s also not as affectionate, clingy, or easily impressed with little gestures of kindness. Peanut’s a live-in-the-moment child, and her basic mood is calm-leaning-toward-happy. She’s a giggly little girl, can be amazingly stubborn, and hurts herself about ten times more often than String Bean, but she never gets terribly excited or bent out of shape about anything. Maybe String Bean will learn a little from her sister about patience, resilience, and self-control. I kind of like that idea, that while String Bean usually falls into the teacher role, as she brings Peanut up to speed on recognizing her letter, numbers, and expanding her vocabulary, Peanut has her own lessons to offer her big sister.