It is said that each child in the family must find their place, and I suppose that statement could be extended that each person in the family must find their place. In our house, we have ministries. Ed is the minister of all strange noises, and since Connor was born and I took on primary responsibility for feeding him, I've been the minister of children's health. Prior to Connor's birth, the position of finance minister used to rotate between the two of us, but somehow I talked Ed into keeping it as long as I was breastfeeding - and let's just say that offers a very big incentive to never wean Helen. I'm going on over 3 years of not having to hold the position. This person is stuck with making sure all bills get paid and that we can afford to do whatever it is we're planning. We used to split it up because both of us are equally qualified to hold the position (unlike other positions which draw on our unique skill sets) but neither of us wants the position. If the finance minister position did not exist in our house, I swear we would be facing foreclosure and our lights would be turned off because neither of us would ever pay the bill.
Upon Connor's birth, he seemed to take up the position of Minster of Being Awake at Odd Times - a position that he took seriously until he was six months old and we told him the position was being abolished (though on occasion he still vies for holding this prestigious title). He then took up being the head of the Ministry of Mess Making and together, we argue over who will be Minister of Having Too Much Crap. For now, Connor is winning, but I can make a good run at this when I want. We also compete over Minister of Talkativeness. Connor strives to be Minister of Nice in our house, but that's something that we all try and hold jointly. Most of all, though Connor is Minister of Doing Freaky Intellectual Things That Nobody Expects Him to Do. In fact, the one label that most people give him when they are labeling him is being smart.
When Helen came along, Ed and I wondered often if all of a sudden what we saw as pretty smart things Connor did would turn into being a regular kid, as we saw childhood unfold for another person. After all, each new development amazed us with Connor, but then, we didn't really have a baseline comparison. Maybe all kids were like him. We worried a lot about pigeonholing Connor into being intellectual, leaving no space there for Helen, and perhaps guiding him along a path that he was not interested in.
Once Helen came along, she decided to be Minister of Puke, but thankfully she has grown tired of that position, so she's now feeling her way around for what ministry she'd like to head up. She is clearly Minister of Happiness in our house, because she has always lit the room with her smile and blue eyes and it is obvious that she has no cares in the world. Things that Connor did that our rookie parent selves labeled as "smart" (which other people labeled as "pain in the assness") didn't always apply to Helen. After all, Connor would read books for hours from birth and Helen enjoys looking at the pictures, but is often happier without anyone controlling when the pages turn and where the story goes. Connor would play with the same toy forever, while Helen seems more intent on discovering everything in the room. We've revised our labels, and definitely label behaviors anthithetical to Connor's "smart" as Helen's "smart".
Lately, though, Helen has decided that making people laugh will be her special skill. Seriously. When we are at dinner, eating peacefully I might add, she will all of sudden give a big whoop and start bouncing up and down laughing, which always makes Connor start laughing, and then Ed and I will be laughing as well. A few days ago, she climbed on top of a little director's chair that the kids have and stood there laughing, even as I repeatedly told her to come down, that it was not safe. Her laughter, of course, is infectious and as she climbed on the chair over and over, Connor couldn't help but laugh. Helen finds any and every way to make everyone around her laugh. If she's doing something and no one notices, she will actually do whatever is in her power to get their attention, seemingly with the goal of making them laugh. Everywhere we go, she seems to make new friends. Where Connor was stand-offish to many people until he turned about 2 (and we thought that was really smart!), Helen seems to embrace everyone - unless they try and hold her and she has to leave my arms (and we think that is smart too!). While the joy is lovely, I've started wondering if she's carving out her niche as "class clown", and that doesn't seem all that lovely to me.