Seeing differences in your children is only natural. Having a girl and a boy; it is inevitable that there would be differences due to their gender. However sibling comparisons often occur when you have children of the same gender and it often happen between sisters.
My mother loved to dress my sister and I the same when we were younger. This despite the fact that she is 7 years older than me.
I don’t know what my mother was thinking as we were far from twins. On the contrary there was nothing that validated we were a matching pair. As a child, I hated this. I think my mom only stopped this craze when my sister started high school.
With the big age gab, there was really no competition or comparison between my sister and I. I knew she was much older and to be in competition with her on various levels was silly.
Despite this, people still made a comparison between us.
Absurd – I know.
Besides sharing the same DNA, we were so different. We didn’t share the same interests. Different in everything we did, our personalities, abilities and looks.
But with the differences we knew that we were bound as sisters for the long-term. Regardless of our differences we shared the same values and upbringing.
People perceived me as the baby and entertainer of the family. Whenever we had visitors my mom would show me off and I had to sing.
Another thing I hated.
As the eldest, my sister had sole attention of my parents for 7 years. She was obviously the pacesetter for things that I still had to achieve. I was always measured by the same stick as my sister when it came to academic progress at school. Ridiculous to say the least taking into consideration that I only started school when she almost completed primary school. She excelled at school and was always either top of the class or second.
My sister on the other hand was a bit rebellious in her teenage and adolescent years and defiant to my parents’ authority as they disapproved of some of her choices. My mom would then compare her to other children who were so obedient. Although there were times I didn’t agree with her behaviour, I kind of admired her rebellious streak. Why? Because she stood up for what she believed in. As the eldest there was so much pressure to set a good example for me.
As children, I can’t recall my sister and I ever being rivals. But I do remember that I used to do things that annoyed her. She did not allow me to hang out with her friends. We only started to click when I was in my matric year and she was already working. That is when we started to communicate on a serious level. We started hanging out together and because I was younger, she was very overprotective but yet she had my back.
Now as adults with our own families, we are living our separate lives but we still share a special bond and my love for her is eternal. My sister and I are still so different. We have different viewpoints on certain things. There are times when we disagree but we don’t keep grudges – and rightfully so – that is how it should be.
Did the comparisons stop – I guess not. People will always compare – even now that we older.
Sisterhood with my own daughters
Today having my own daughters, the differences are noticeable. My pregnancies with both were different, they developed and reached their milestones at a different pace.
They have different personalities, aesthetics, likes, abilities and have their own interests. They have a different sense of style and mannerisms.
One thing I vowed was never to dress them the same, to showcase them, label them, to compare them to each other and to have a favourite. Although I see the differences, I would never say that I wish they were more like the other one. I accept them as unique individuals.
The problem however came in when their grandparents started making subtle comparisons between the two. Evaluating their achievements, comparing report cards and suggesting that the one seems to be better at doing certain things. It grated my cheese when I caught them in the act of making a comparison.
Although I nipped it right there; these comparisons already started to spark competition between my daughters. Always wanting to outsmart one another. Wanting recognition for being better at a task and competing for parental attention.
Of course, my husband and I set the record straight. We constantly remind them that they are unique in their own way and should never live by comparison. My daughters have their own strengths and weaknesses. As parents we focus on the positives and motivate them. No one is superior or more intelligent than the other.
Yes my daughters squabble and that is normal. But as parents we do not tolerate them to be angry with each other. We taught them how to apologise for their wrong doings and to find positive solutions to resolve their conflict. They have a special bond and give emotional support to one another. The love they have for each other is indescribable. They communicate well with each other and as young as they are, they have each others backs.
The impact of comparing siblings
Comparisons are influenced by parents wanting their children to perform better or to be on the same par as other siblings. Other than parental influences, it is also brought about by birth order, personality and people outside of the family.
These comparisons have a negative impact on children.
- Comparisons create competition between siblings.
- It causes sibling rivalry and envy.
- It can be alienating where a child feels that he/she does not fit in with the family.
- This can lead to a child becoming distant and socially withdrawn from the family. It can create self-doubt, low self-esteem and lack of confidence.
- It can cause resentment towards other siblings.
- Comparing siblings can stagger a child’s development.
- It can lead to underachievement and behaviour problems.
Sisters and siblings in general will always be different even if they are identical twins. The focus should be on the love that they have for each other and forming a strong bond. Having a sibling, whether a sister or brother is a blessing and a gift. You instantly have a friend for life. So be like Anna and Elsa in Frozen, have each others backs, accept your differences, stop comparing and competing and just “let it go”.