I grew up as the oldest of three girls, so was the first to do most things. This meant I was rarely on the receiving end of any “well, your sister…” comparisons. It helped that all three of us were quite different, with very different skills and hobbies. I also studied birth order in the Development Psychology modules of my degree, so I’ve always found this interesting.
Since having my second child, I’ve been conscious of trying not to pit them against one another. It’s been fairly easy up until now with them both hitting major milestones at similar times and being similar when it came to sleep, feeding etc. However, Alastair has been much slower to walk than Carys. She was on her feet at 10 months and tottering around happily by her birthday. But Alastair is far more reluctant. I don’t think this means he’s slow or that Carys was in some way “better”. It’s just the first obvious developmental difference between them.
It’s got me thinking about how to avoid sibling comparison and the possible rivalry and resentment. There’s nothing wrong with some healthy competition, but when does it get too much? I genuinely don’t have the answer to this, but it’s something I’m conscious of and hope to keep at the front of my mind as they get older.
The number and age differences between siblings impact the comparisons as well. I’m more often compared to my middle sister, two years younger, than my youngest sister, eight years younger. My two children are fairly close in age, but different genders, so I’m interested to see how that plays into it. We really try not to put them in gender roles but inevitably there will be some differences. It’s possible this will actually help reduce the amount I compare them, as they are naturally a little more different than two sisters or two brothers would be.
It’s early days for our family, but I’m already trying to note positive individual traits that each of the children has. This way I can be more positive about those things, rather than just noticing what they lack compared to the other. I’d be very keen to hear from anyone who has experience in this area with more or older children.
I really hope that my children grow up feeling equally and individually loved and appreciated in our family. But I’m realistic that we’ll have to navigate competition and comparison for that to happen! Am I shooting for the moon? I hope not.