Archive for Thursday, June 27, 2002

Sibling rivalry more than brotherly love

June 27, 2002

June is a busy month in our family. Three Simon kids (out of the eight in my immediate family) were born in June. Add my son, Cooper, my niece Michaela and my sister-in-law Jenny and you've got a lot of birthday cards going back and forth across the country.

Growing up, people always said I was spoiled because I was the youngest of the eight kids. I still say mom was wisest by the time she got to me because she'd already seen my brothers and sisters try all the tricks I tried to pull. Of course, watching my siblings helped me learn what I could and couldn't get away with.

Mostly, the older kids and I got along well. I brawled the most with my sister, who at 21 months older, is closest to me in age. She also was probably the most athletic, got the best grades, had perfect teeth and never broke curfew. Not that there was a rivalry growing up or anything.

Sibling rivalry came to my attention several times this past week. First, last Thursday at the Basehor Library's youth summer book club, which I have the pleasure of leading, a little girl brought up several examples of things she'd like to do to her little brother. Seems when you're 9 years old, the entire purpose of a young brother is to annoy you. However, when pressed, she admitted she liked him, even if only sometimes.

The next example was when I went to De Soto Sunday to take pictures. I stopped by the little league field and took a picture of Zack Atchison hitting a home run during practice. I called his grandmother, Pat, to double check the spelling of his name, and she told me an interesting story about Zack and his brother, Todd. Zack is playing on a little league team for kids two years older than him. While that's an impressive feat, more impressive is that his older brother is also on the team, and they actually get along. While Zack is competitive and athletic, Todd is thoughtful and introspective. This has to be the only way the two could get along. Zack will get lots of attention for being a good athlete. But I give credit to Todd because he has more patience and understanding than most kids.

Then I met a young woman from Eudora High School who is going to do some writing for us this fall. She and her brother are only 11 months apart. When I asked her who annoyed the other more, she freely admitted she drove him nuts more than vice versa.

How a family deals with two babies baffles me, but with twins, it's all you know. For someone to have the ability to deal with two that close in age is beyond me. There is probably already a table waiting in heaven for moms who haven't lost their sanity despite kids this close in age.

I know when I was growing up, I'd hang around my sister and her friends and she'd tell me I was "crowding her space." I remember my sister's friend Michelle Burke, this really cute "older" girl who always smelled great, described me as a cute little freshman. My sister had much more colorful adjectives to describe me when it was just her and me at home.

As we watched Cooper tear around the house this week at his first birthday party, I marveled to Heidi how much growth we'd done as a family in the past year. Before I sprained my arm patting myself on the back, I regained perspective from some other families that really are doing well.

I know sibling rivalry still exists, even if in different terms. My brother and his wife have a little girl about six weeks younger than Cooper. Our new sibling rivalry is in the pictures and emails we send to each other, showing off our genius children. Finally, after all these years of being everyone's little brother, I've got a kid that has a leg up on someone. I know I'll never encourage him to do anything but love his little cousin. But something tells me they'll have their moments, much like we all have, in trying to prove sibling supremacy.

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