I know instinctively that my children will be different from each other. After all, I grew up with three siblings, and we are different from each other in lots of ways. We're similar in plenty of ways too, like our facial expressions (furrowing of brows, sarcastic opening of mouth), our vocal intonations, our innate nature to incessantly tease our dad, our ability to collectively roll our eyes at our mom when she says something that begins with, "You promised..." But we don't respond to stress the same way, nor do we interact with other people the same way.
And yet, here I am, dumbstruck by Jules' propensity for toddler violence. She is, I dare say, got a mischievous mean streak so far removed from Sydney's personality that Jason and I sometimes don't even know what to do. When Sydney was frustrated as a toddler, rather than hit others, she would hit herself. She'd run headlong into the wall, or find a toy and whack herself over the head with it. It concerned me for awhile, but with lots of intervention she eventually outgrew it. Jules, however, has no inclination to punish herself when there are so many others just hanging around.
Just a few days ago, Jules was mad at Jason for picking her up to scold her, so she hit him in the face. He sternly told her "no," and grabbed her hand. She hit him in the face with her other hand. He grabbed her other hand and more sternly said "no." When she realized that she had no free arms with which to hit him, she head-butted him in the nose.
Ingenious, yes? Jules is such a terror of physical energy and mischief we can't even anticipate what her next move will be. She so often torments the dog that we weren't surprised when Daisy--after months of endurance--finally snapped at Jules last week, and nipped her in the hand. Of course, our old shi-tzu didn't do a bit of harm, so it was more the shock of it that hurt Jules' feelings. She was momentarily derailed from her tail-pulling escapades, but soon enough was back at it.
It's as if she should have been born into a family where she might have an older sibling who'd pick on her and she's genetically wired to physically defend herself. Only, Sydney doesn't pick on Jules. On the contrary, Sydney's response towards Jules pulling her hair or stealing her glasses off her face is so passive that I complained to Jason last night, "I just wish Sydney would defend herself more actively," recalling an episode at the library a couple weeks ago where Jules pushed an older kid on the head, and he stopped her in her tracks when he gave her a hefty push back. She looked startled, and then decided that this kid wasn't to be messed with.
At my most exasperated point, I wish Sydney would push Jules away. I don't want Syd hitting Jules. I just would like her to do something a little more proactive than whine and complain when Jules uses Sydney's hair as a rope in order to climb up on the couch. "Maama! Jules is pulling my hair again!" Or when I see Syd watching tv without her glasses only to discover that Jules is running physical experiments on them behind the chair. "Sydney," I say with a tone that is unfortunately becoming a hallmark feature of my voice, "don't let Jules take your glasses." And Sydney sighs and shakes her head in response, "What am I supposed to do?"
Supposed to do, indeed. Already Jules has received plenty of time-outs, swats on the hand, and flicks on the mouth, because, oh did I not mention this earlier? She bites. She bites to be funny; she bites to be ornery; she bites when she's bored; she bites when she's mad. I'm not of the "bite them back to teach them a lesson" camp, so we persist in flicking her mouth and giving timeouts. Even still, Jules knows she doesn't actually have to bite Sydney in order to make her scream. All she has to do is slyly open up her mouth and lean all vampire-like towards her older sister to get a response.
"She's biting!" Sydney screams as Jules simultaneously shakes her head and points to her mouth. She knows the game too well, this one.
I know some of it is just a toddler phase that she'll grow out of, but I also know that younger siblings can sometimes be a thorn in their older sibling's side (speaking as the oldest sibling of my family). Even though Sydney adores Jules, she has a hard time playing with her when Jules is so persistent in being unkind. I know there's a part of Sydney always waiting for Jules' naptime so she can receive a reprieve from all the toddler torture. Honestly, we all kind of wait for Jules' naptime...Daisy included.
We are doing our best to curb her propensity for hitting, for teasing, for pinching, for biting, for head-butting. Of course, just as soon as I scoop her up to punish her, she's gently patting my face with her little hands and murmuring, "Den-dull." Yes, Jules, gentle. And she snuggles into my neck waiting for me to kiss her face and breathe in the scent that instantly calms me down. She still gets a time-out in her crib, but as I walk out of her room, I hear her laughing behind me, blowing me kisses on my way out.
She may be fierce, but she still has a whole lot of sweetness to hand out as well.
(c) Creature Bug 2008. All rights reserved.