Ever since M-Girl was born, we've called her older sister "the black hole of attention." Even when she doesn't encourage it (which she often does), A-Girl just seems to become the center of attention no matter where we are or what's going on. I'm sure that's part of what has helped her acting success but within a family, it can be tough to handle.
M-Girl is positively adorable in her own right but when people see the two of them, comments to her are often an after-thought. It doesn't help that she puts herself in the background and speaks almost in a whisper. When you have her one-on-one or when she's in a familiar place with familiar people, she comes out of her shell a bit. When I brought her to my office once, two people at separate times said "Oh, look. You're a little A-Girl, aren't you." I tried to be nice but I said "You're not a little A-Girl. Tell her that you're a big M-Girl."
Big D and I make a huge effort to take her places without her sister so that she can shine on her own. We've also fought hard against the perception of M-Girl as "shy." Those labels so easily become self-fulfilling prophecies - if she hears adults telling her that she's shy all the time, she's sure to start believing it and acting that way. Every time someone says "Oh, she's shy," we say "You're not shy, M-Girl. Be polite and say hello." And she usually does - in fact, she's downright proud of herself when she speaks up. But it's so hard for her when A-Girl's around and frankly, I don't blame her.
This morning she broke my heart when she said "Mom, tonight can I have some alone time with you and Dad? Yesterday at breakfast you spent the whole time talking about A-Girl and you didn't talk about me." And she was absolutely right. We had breakfast with an old high school friend of my husband's who he hasn't seen for 20 years. Since A-Girl's career is a big part of our lives right now, it was natural for us to talk about it. And we did. A lot. Too much. And we didn't really talk much about M-Girl (except to say that she got her very own guitar on Saturday - more on that another time). She's very perceptive and sensitive. When Big D and I talked about it, he pointed out that it's pretty amazing that not only did she notice what was going on but she was able to articulate her feelings about it. I don't know very many four year olds who can do that.
So we owe her an apology and a promise to try to keep things a bit more balanced in the future. She's a very special person, it isn't hard for us to find things to say about her. It's just that while those things are very interesting to people who know and love her, they probably aren't all that interesting to people who don't know us well.
So here are some great things about M-Girl: She has an incredible eye for patterns and she's really good at math - she just gets it. She's been writing her letters and numbers like a pro for pretty much the whole school year and she's already writing whole words (phonetically spelled). She's starting to read in a way that's different from other kids (in my limited experience) - she concentrates more on whole words rather than sounding out parts of words. Phonics don't resonate with her as well as they do with other kids, although she's getting used to it more lately. She shares her things better than any child (and some adults) I've ever met. She will routinely give other people the last bite of her dessert. On an almost daily basis she says things like "Mommy, I love you bigger than the whole world." Yesterday she said to Big D "Daddy I love you so much I want to squeeze you bigger than the whole world." I can't get enough of her saying "You're the bestest Mommy in the whole world." The other day I asked her if I could borrow a necklace of hers (it matched my sweater!) and she said "Of course you can, Mommy. You don't need to ask permission to borrow my things." So sweet, I get cavities just being around her. And she's athletic, tougher than nails when it comes to tolerating pain and a spitfire when she wants to be (which is not always the most pleasant trait but as she matures and learns to tame it, it will probably serve her well.)
We'll try to help M-Girl find her own ways to shine and make more of an effort to counter act the gravitational pull that is her sister.