Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sibling Rivalry

My girls Flash and Muscles were born 18 months apart, and are 1 year-level apart at school. On occasion, they can be the best of friends. Sometimes it seems to me that they are mortal enemies! However, there is no doubt in my mind that my children love and care for each other very deeply and sometimes appear lost without each other. If one of them is lost or injured, the other will also be shaking with fear or crying in sympathy.

In some ways my girls are very similar; such as their love of sport, competitiveness and aptitude. However, my girls look, behave and act in completely different ways and each has a very separate, strong and unique personality.

A PE teacher at the girl’s school once told me that Flash had enormous athletic potential. She went on to say that there was one other child at the school with similar potential, a little girl in kindergarten…you guessed it…Muscles. The teacher had not realised that the two girls were sisters!

I find one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent of 3 is making sure everyone gets the attention they require. On some days I feel like I have given so much of myself to my children that I have NOTHING left of ‘me’! But even when I give everything I have, it does not appear to be enough. The girls especially, compete for my attention. No matter how many times I tell them I love them all, exactly the same amount, they seem to be convinced that they need to compete for my love as well. I tell them my heart is big enough for all of them but they don’t seem to believe me. I find this almost soul destroying, because I am always, acutely aware of giving my children equal and appropriate treatment.

While sport in general has been a fantastic experience for my family I sometimes can’t help but think the sibling rivalry feeds off their sport. In athletics both girls are high achievers in their club. The club keeps updated records information. Previously there were congratulations all-round when one of the girls set a new club record. Now Muscles seems to be taking records previously held by her big sister. I don’t tell them who’s record they taken, however, GrumpyDaddy appears to delight in keeping such statistics in his head. He happily informs the girls, other parents and neighbors within the girls ear-shot! I’ve attempted to impress upon him not to do this as it seems to make Flash feel insecure and cause the rivalry to worsen.

In general Muscles is supportive of Flash’s achievements however we often describe her as ‘me-too-girl’ because she is always striving to get everything and be everything her big sister and little brother are. Flash seems to be insecure about her own achievements and seems to belittle the success of  her sister’s.

I wonder how the parents of successful, high profile, sporting siblings such as tennis’ Williams sisters or the cricket Waugh brothers or the cycling Mears sisters, have dealt with their situations.

In a practical sense, it seems to help our family to have the girls participating in different sports. Flash does swimming, whereas muscles does gymnastics. However this puts an awful strain on family scheduling, especially when the training or competitions are in two different places at the same time.

I do realise that I’m not Robinson Crusoe here, and this is probably some sort of rivalry or competition between most siblings. So, rather than looking at sport as feeding their sibling rivalry, I will look at sport as a unique opportunity to build upon the character of my little girls. Part of my aims as a parent are to develop the qualities of good sportsmanship, kindness, appreciations of others achievements and humility in my children. Demonstrating these attributes through sports and using famous athletes that the girls look up to, as an example, is a unique opportunity to build upon the girls character. Not only will teaching these qualities help their sporting rivalry, but it may also lead the girls to understand that they also do not have to be rivals for my attention and my love.

Off course I will continue to reinterate to them that they are not competing against each other, but trying to do their individual bests. I will constantly tell them that I LOVE THEM NO MATTER WHAT! Maybe one day this will sink in. Maybe one day they will be mature enough to understand this. In fact, as I write this, all three of my children are in their bedroom practicing a xmas concert and singing ‘Jingle bells’ together….which I will no doubt be ‘forced’ to listen to later J.

Flash has an ACT Little Athletics carnival on tomorrow at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport). I can guarantee you that her sister’s voice will be one of the loudest in the stands, as we all cheer her on! I will keep you posted on the sibling rivalry and  the results of the multi-event carnival.

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