Monday, June 20, 2011


I was taking Miriam's Last Day of School picture by the front door on Thursday when Magdalena popped her head in the shot at the moment the shutter clicked. I look at this picture now and it seems to tell the story of their lives. Miriam in the foreground, doing important, big-girl things with all the poise and confidence of a 5.5-year-old; Magdalena in the background, checking in to see what's going on and taking mental notes so that she can emulate her big sister as soon as possible.

It's amazing how different their childhoods have been. Miriam was surrounded mostly by adults in her earliest years, and didn't really learn much about anything beyond her age unless I chose to tell her about it.

Magdalena, on the other hand, thrives on being around other kids, and there are plenty of them - most of them older than her - because they're Miriam's playmates. She knows about all kinds of things - school, homework, ballet class, dramatic little-girl argument tactics, and My Little Ponies, all thanks to Miriam's influence.

Miriam will wait patiently (uh, sometimes) for our help if she needs help accessing an item of food. She knows that we'll get around to it eventually.

Magdalena, on the other hand, puts no such trust in possible attention from Mom or Dad at an unspecified future moment. She gets what she needs for herself at any effort, even if it involves dragging chairs into the kitchen to reach the unreachables, and using her teeth to open stubborn packaging. Be careful about eating cheese at my house because sometimes I find the brick on the counter with  suspicious toddler-sized bite marks taken out of it.

Miriam knows that when she's playing with her little sister, any toy is hers for the asking (or cajoling).

Magdalena tucks away precious play items into purses, under her blankets, or in obscure corners of the house. Nothing is safe. Ever.

When it was time for Miriam to start preschool, she was excited about it, I guess. Mom and Dad sent her to this place to play for a couple of mornings a week. Whatever.

Magdalena is absolutely salivating for the chance to go to preschool. The poor long-suffering younger sibling has gone with me to drop off and pick up Miriam from preschool (in Ithaca) and then KG2 (here) every day. She will start KG1 in the fall - at last! - and we get to hear about it from her every. single. day.

The dynamic between the two girls has been like this as long as I can remember.
In fact, when I look at pictures of Magdalena when she was any younger than about 22 months, I see a bright, energetic, precocious girl trapped in the body of a baby. It was only when she could walk and talk freely that it seemed she could finally be who she really is.

Now, I would roll my eyes and say that every parent probably says this about each one of their children, except that I don't recall feeling that way about Miriam. She was always anxious to be up and doing, yes, but when she was a baby she was a baby, you know?

Not so with Madgalena. What a joy it is to observe these two girls as they grow up and into themselves.


Jeremy Palmer said...

Majd will drag chairs up two flights of stairs to get into stuff. She has also recently learned that if she uses her teeth with enough persistence, she can fang her way through most packaging. If the girls were ever left alone somewhere (large department store, wilderness, deserted island) I know who would take the initiative to survive.

She is also becoming proficient at less-than-sincere apologies. "I'm sorry," she says in the most adorable manner. It reminds me of Bart Simpson and his fake apology practicing for the Aussies.

Kathy Haynie said...

Adorable girls, wonderful mama insights.

No, I don't recall thinking that my little ones were trapped in baby bodies. But I do recall the shock of having a third child and realizing that she was neither of her older sisters. I had assumed that the first two were "opposites," and that #3 would be one or the other. But she was herself. Still is. They all are. Big aha moment for me as a mama.

Susanne said...

The more I read about Majd the more I LOVE her! And her peeking her head inside the door is so cute. It's like she's saying, "Uh, you coming?" I love her haircut.

And Miriam looks like such a little lady. Pretty skirt.

Tia said...

Your girls are too cute.
I also thought that the 3rd would be like one of the other two but she is completely different. With each girl, they grow up faster and seem to mature more quickly too. Maybe because they are trying to keep up with the older ones?

Liz Johnson said...

I seriously wonder how much birth order affects a child's personality. It seems to me that first children are often the responsible, poised ones and second children are the vivacious, survival-oriented ones. I would love to read gobs of studies on birth order.

Anonymous said...

My first was like an adult trapped in a baby's body. I never thought about it until a few different people pointed it out. She is still like that and she just turned three. I was gobsmacked when she wanted to know why she couldn't have the priesthood. When she thought I wasn't looking she tried to give her younger siblings blessings. My son was not like an adult and my latest baby is only two months old so time will tell :)


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