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In which i discuss sibling rivalry

About a month ago, I had a guest post up on Scary Mommy’s blog about competition.  Specifically about the competition that society and other moms place on their children.  Along with the many comments on competition between my kid and your kid, someone brought up competition between siblings.  This is a much more complicated issue with no definitive answer.


I have three kids as I’ve stated before, but the first two are girls who are only 15 months apart (not our finest family planning moment.)  This was initially difficult as daughter number two, Andie, was quite sickly and dealing with a sick one year old and having a two and a half year old running around can be a tough thing to manage.  Fortunately for me, I had good friends and a great sitter who helped.  Eventually, having a built in playmate was amazing.  They shared a room, and while Keely (number one) was bossy and spent her time telling Andie what to do, how to act, and even told her how to set up her Playmobile characters, the two of them could entertain themselves for long periods of time.  In fact, Andie was so conscious of what Keely wanted her to do that when I asked Andie to do something, she would look over to Keely as if to seek permission.


Eventually, they started school at a small, private one.  At the beginning, it was easy for Andie to follow Keely around because Keely was just your average, well behaved little girl.  As Keely began becoming more successful academically, the pressure was on for Andie.  By middle school and high school, Keely was at the top of her class.  Keely was extremely driven.  She once got a B+ in science and Kevin, my husband, made a joke about it.  Keely went crazy.  She worked her butt off and, in fact, never made below an A- again in high school…EVER.


As you can imagine, having Andie one grade behind was difficult.  Keely was always the teacher’s pet while Andie was more like me: a smart ass.  Andie was very smart in her own right but following behind her sister was an incredible burden.  She told me years later that one of the reasons she worked so hard was because she didn’t want to be “the dumb MacDonald.”  That is a situation I NEVER had to deal with but I can completely understand.  Going into the same class, reading the same books, learning the same subject right behind someone who excelled at it can be a difficult and daunting task.


Even their friend groups were intermixed.  Since Keely was extremely outgoing, there were always lots of kids at our house.  Many of them were as close to Andie’s age as they were to Keely’s. Keely was a year round swimmer and was on her school’s team.  Andie played field hockey, swam, and played lacrosse.  She was on sports teams with many, many of Keely’s friends and was friends with them in her own right.  Talking about making things even more complicated!  Having Andie being friends with Keely’s friends based on different factors was at times very frustrating and caused more than a few arguments.


The advantages were that Keely was “queen of the study guide” and often let Andie use said study guides the next year.  But – and there’s always a but – when Andie was successful Keely would say “yeah, cuz you used my study guide” or “so what, I got an A in that subject too!”  It’s difficult to walk your own road when you’re just 15 months younger.  Keely also had much more innate confidence than Andie did.  I didn’t even realize this until Keely went to college.  She had always been Andie’s touchstone and indeed, was most probably Andie’s best friend.  Keely, of course, didn’t feel that way as she was an incredibly outgoing and popular child.


When Andie, against all odds, ended up at the same college as Keely, Kevin and I were worried.  How would this work?  Would it be just another situation for Andie to get lost in Keely’s shadow?  At first, there was a lot of juggling for Andie to make her own way, meet her own friends, and cement her own persona.  It was tough.  Andie was, however, in a completely different academic track so there wasn’t much competition there.  They did have one class together and learned to work as a team.


Keely ended up having a MASSIVE medical disaster last year and it was a very tough year for both of them.  Keely needed lots of help physically since she was on crutches for six months and expected Andie to be at her beck and call.  Andie felt underappreciated and taken for granted.  I was frustrated and spent much of my time shuttling back and forth between here and Duke University.  The girls eventually learned to work together and trust each other.  They have, no matter how mad they were at each other, always had each other’s backs.


Indeed, they actually get along better at school then they do at home.  Andie explained it’s because “at school, we can see each other because we WANT to, not because we have to.”  I get it but it hasn’t always been easy.  When I get phone calls now when they’re in a fight and one is complaining about the other, I just say “you know what?  I’m not interested in getting between you two…you need to work this out.”  Even if the other one is blatantly wrong, I feel that at almost 20 and 21 they need to deal on their own.


So yeah, sibling rivalry.  It’s good and bad.  There have been a lot of ups and downs dealing with it.  Daniel doesn’t want to play the game and indeed feels that the sheer amount of time the girls spent on academics is ridiculous.  The irony is that he’s doing just as well without investing even close to the same amount of time.  Sibling rivalry can help make the kids better, stronger, raise their achievement levels, but it can also break down their confidence.  Like I said, it’s a double-edged sword.


Just my opinion though…



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