Thursday, December 17, 2009

One Orchid, One Dandelion

I don't usually write about my own children here. I tend to think of this blog as my "professional" writing space, and the "personal" stuff I put elsewhere.

But in reading David Dobbs' article in The Atlantic, I found my personal and professional selves were equally piqued. See, I have two daughters, both of whom are wonderful, loving, and endearing. And while they may look much alike from the outside, they could not be more different temperment-wise.

As an infant, the elder required at least 1-2 hours--and sometimes more--of nursing to fall asleep at night. At 20 months, she began crying at any song that was in a minor key. At 3 years-old, she recalls emotionally-stirring incidents that happened well over a year ago. She's my orchid.

Her younger sister is pure dandelion. At bedtime, you can lay her in her crib, she'll pop her two favorite fingers in her mouth, and within a few minutes, she'll be asleep. She weaned herself at about 8 months--just decided to move on one day. She just learned to climb the stairs on her own--not the way her sister learned, mind you: by trying and falling, mastering a few more, falling and trying again. Oh, no. She'd try one stair, fall down, and quit. She seemed content to remain downstairs until one day when she found she had mastered that first stair, she proceeded to climb the entire staircase. She wasn't willing to risk falling the way her sister did to master the skill. She also hasn't learned to walk at 12 months the way her sister did, or figure out how to jump out of her crib at 9 months. She's careful and cautious in a dandelion (and, admittedly, greatly-relieving-to-me) kind of way.

Before I had children, I really believed that environment--not genetics--had the greatest influence on who we become as people. Raising my daughters, however, it's unmistakable to me how parts of personality are hard-wired. Granted, I have a sample size of 2 for this study. And birth order, naturally, must play a part; but, my daughters were different babies in utero. We know the younger self-soothed with her fingers from her ultrasound pictures. Her older sister never seemed to learn to calm herself, was always dependent on her caregivers to help her. I don't know how else to explain these differences in personality other than through genetics.

I hadn't really reflected on it before, but I suppose I'm a different parent to each of them. I tend to think of them as a unit, "the girls," but I'm recognizing that my bond with each of them is different, is based on a unique set of needs and wants. In my coming posts, I hope to explore more the (sometimes ugly, sometimes lovely) truth of who I am as a parent to one orchid and one dandelion.


Elizabeth said...

We have only one child - a 7-month-old girl, and she sounds very much like your dandelion. She started sleeping 10-12 hours/night at 2.5 months and never looked back. She doesn't really try things until she can do them, and then she does them with great delight. She is happy and easy-going and just remarkably "easy." My mom keeps praising my parenting, suggesting that I have a great deal to do with the way our little girl lives in the world, but as a first-time parent, I'm convinced it's largely genetics that has made her such a joy, as I certainly don't know what I'm doing!

Shannon said...

Hi, Elizabeth. Thanks for reading! While I find it hard to believe that you "don't know what (you're) doing" because clearly you're doing something right, your daughter does seem to fit the "dandelion" bill. But remember: dandelions also flourish when given loving care. So enjoy those compliments because while "dandelions" can be "easy" as infants go, parenting an infant is never easy. You've earned those kudos!