The skill of the maestro

My two oldest daughters are as different in personality as they could possibly be. Abigail, age 4, is dramatic, high-strung, high-maintenance, highly intelligent, very intense, buttons very easily pushed. Catherine, age 2, is as mellow as they come. Her feathers don’t get ruffled very easily at all. However, being highly intelligent as well, she has figured out exactly which of Abigail’s buttons are the most fun to push, and exactly how to push them to achieve maximum possible effect. If Abigail were a guitar, her strings would be wound so tightly that the lightest feather touch would produce a chord, and Catherine would be the maestro that plays the guitar with perfection.

Examples (Every one of the following instances has actually happened in recent days. I am not making this up.):

* Abigail and Catherine are sitting at the table coloring, each minding her own business, lost in thought, not making a sound. Catherine looks up at Abigail, and, just for the heck of it, says, “Shh.” Abigail immediately erupts into, “Mommy! Catherine told me to ‘Sh!’ But she said… But I wasn’t… But Mommy, Catherine… But…” then weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth because Mommy is not letting her finish her sentences because Mommy is trying to tell her that she does not need to be upset over this. (Catherine knows that randomly saying, “No, Abba,” “Stop, Abba,” “That’s mine,” or any number of phrases will also result in this same hysteria.)

* Abigail is in the playroom playing, content as she can be. She has set her Little People up all over the room, just the way she wants them. Some of them are across the room and she is not using them right at that moment. Catherine walks in, surveys the situation, and walks over to the ones Abigail is not currently using. Her eyes on her sister, she slowly moves her hand toward the Little People, as if to pick them up. Abigail is engrossed in play and does not notice. Catherine says, “Hey, Abba, can I have this?” and picks one up. Abigail looks up, sees the Little People in Catherine’s hand, screams, “NO! THAT’S MINE!” and is up jumping hurdles to get across the playroom in 1.63 seconds to try to jerk the toy out of her sister’s hand. Weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth commence. After tormenting her for a few seconds, acting like she’s really going to keep it, Catherine calmly says, “Here you go, Ab,” gives it to her, and walks away. Her job is done. Abigail immediately calms down, says, “Thank you, Catherine,” and resumes play.

* Mommy says, “Abigail, would you like (fill in the blank)?” She says yes. Catherine, who could care less about what was offered, says simply, “Me.” Abigail dissolves into weeping, wailing, you get the idea, crying, “No, Catherine, Mommy asked me! Mommy, Catherine said her but you said me! Mommy! Catherine!” She doesn’t notice that Catherine has left the room already, having achieved her purpose.

My question is not why does Abigail get her buttons pushed so easily, although that would be worthy of exploration, I’m sure. What I am baffled about is how a child who just turned 2 three months ago can be so skilled at playing her sister like a maestro plays a guitar. I try my best to make sure that Catherine is positively occupied, because if she is lacking for anything to do, it is just too much fun to light the fuse and watch her sister explode. And honestly, I can kind of see it from Catherine’s point of view. It is quite funny, after all. Like my husband said a couple of days ago, if the fits weren’t so annoying, it would be tempting to say randomly to Abigail, “No it didn’t,” and then sit back and watch the fireworks. Oh, how dull life would be without my little high-strung guitar and the maestro who plays her so well.

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6 Responses to The skill of the maestro

  1. semperreformada says:

    sad, but true, my dear –oh, wait, i mean, uh, no, not my daughters. they would never . . .

  2. Mom says:

    If I hadn’t witnessed some of Catherine’s mischievous antics in the car last summer, I would say you were making all this up. Something to think about: where is Elisabeth going to fit in this mix?

  3. April says:

    That is amazing that they have such different temperments but more amazing that your 2 year old can get a rize out of her. She sounds really smart and articulate too.

    Maybe Elizabeth will be the peacemaker??

  4. Stacey says:

    I love my nieces! It seems that I remember a little sister who pushed buttons as well as Catherine does…not sure that she was smart enough to do it at such a young age, but she did it!

  5. jakestimp says:

    I’ve got two very similar little girls at home, though the oldest is 2 now rather than 4. We’ll see how the situation is in 2 more years… Anway, check out this ministry:, if you haven’t already. They offer good, practical, encouraging Biblical insights into raising kids. Sign up for the free monthly newsletter. It’s given my wife and I quite a few ideas to use, and I’m sure we’ll never stop needing their suggestions.

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