On our way to a friend’s house last weekend we saw a carnival being assembled off the side of the highway. We were going to visit with a dear family friend – no blood relation, but we call him “Uncle Glenn” because of how he interacts with the kids. (He’s the kind of man who knows how to be with kids even though he’s never had any of his own. Everyone should have an Uncle Glenn.) During the conversations, Uncle Glenn asked, “April, what would you say is the number one difference between your two boys?” (Jacob, my eight-year-old, and Jackson, my three-year-old.)
I didn’t have to think very long before I replied that my Jacob is a rule-follower by nature, and my Jackson is a born rule-breaker.
On the way home we saw the same carnival, but this time it was lighted up and gyrating like carnivals do after dark. The kids were wowed. I was wowed. No matter how you feel about the actual experience of a carnival, you can’t deny the power of all that incandescence. Jacob asked us, “What is at a carnival?”
“It has roller coasters and stuff,” Jeremiah answered.
Jackson squealed with delight. Jacob said, flatly, “Oh.”
Roller coasters. You either love them or you don’t. I think this holds true even if you hated roller coasters when you first experienced one and then grew to appreciate their shock value. Or if you loved roller coasters when you were younger and then as you got older you just couldn’t handle the adrenaline and motion sickness. You may have changed your mind about roller coasters at some point, but there was an original reaction that was either fer ‘em or agin ‘em.
So, Uncle Glenn, there’s your difference, and it’s probably more accurate than the answer I gave at dinner. Jackson loves roller coasters. Jacob does not. And, I don’t know which one scares me more.
Most likely at some point in the future I’ll find myself encouraging a reluctant Jacob to try out a coaster. “This one is not that bad,” I’ll say. “It only has a few drops.”
Likewise, at some point I’ll say to Jackson, “Honey, slow down. You’re going to make yourself hurl.” It’s just who they are.
It would be gratifying to see Jacob excitedly climbing into a roller coaster car or to hear Jackson say he’ll take a pass on that sixth consecutive ride. I think it’s good to try to overcome your natural tendencies. But, even if my kids do change their minds about roller coasters someday, Jacob will still be my thinker, and Jackson will still be my daredevil. I like it that way.