In child developmental theory, there is a term called "Goodness of Fit" which refers to the compatability between a child's temperment and his/her caregivers.
Adam and I have discussed how being the eldest in his family makes him more sympathetic to Big A in certain situations while me being the youngest in my family predisposes me to being more sympathetic to Little A. This may be why Big A is daddy's girl and Little A is mommy's girl, although their parental preferences are not quite as pronounced as they once were. And perhaps birth order is partially responsible for this, but I also think there are tempermental issues at play too.
Little A is very mischievous, which can be trying, but I also find it extremely amusing. In contrast, it drives Adam nuts. Yesterday morning while he was out taking Big A from Hebrew School to swimming and then out to the car wash, Little A and I were at home. She managed to get into all sorts of trouble including shoving handfuls of her sticky, cheesy pasta lunch between the seat cushions of the couch in the living room and getting ahold of some blue toddler paint (luckily non-toxic!) and painting her lips, the inside of her mouth and both hands. Adam detests messes and gets very frustrated by these sorts of things whereas I am usually able to find the humour in them.
But Adam is much better at "getting" Big A and this morning I realized I still have a lot to learn about how to parent her. I was not in a good mood because I have a bad cold and also woke up with a breast infection. I am still nursing Little A, and while I know some people might find this weird, because she is our last child, I really want to continue to do so until she is at least two. Why not? Generally, it is good for both of us, and something we will never share again.
I begged Big A to be cooperative because I wasn't feeling well and needed to get to the doctor ASAP to get some antibiotics. She was reasonably well behaved until just before we were leaving the house. She realized she had forgotten to fulfill her "special helper" obligations over the weekend for kindergarten (the kids rotate having this role, and this week her obligations included drawing a picture and reading a book). She had a total melt down and refused to leave the house. I completely lost it and used some choice words and names for her that I really regret. She calmed down but was sullen for most of the walk to school.
When I got home from dropping both girls off, I called Adam at work and recounted the story. Instead of being outraged by her petulance in the face of what I considered my urgent health crisis, he expressed sympathy for Big A and how upset she must be that she did not fulfill her special helper obligations, given how important this is to her. Of course. She's not even 5. She can't understand my urgency nor how being in extreme pain makes me short-tempered. To her, this was a very important matter. And parenting experts do stress the importance of trying to acknowledge children's feelings, regardless of whether they are reasonable or rational.
I did apologize to her for what I said, but I also am pledging to try harder to see things from her perspective next time. I know I will continue to make mistakes as a parent...all I can do is try to learn from them.