Saturday, October 7, 2017

Sibling Rivalry: Her Success is Never Your Failure

I watched her sulk away, my motherly instinct torn between smacking her upside the head for attitude and wanting to give her hug to tell her despite her attitude and my lecturing of it I understood. Her sister just wanted her to recognize her success on the soccer field this year; it wasn't about her success in comparison to her sister's. She was just proud of how much she had improved since last year, yet sulky big sister saw it as another reminder of her struggles in the current season.

Though it was soccer to both of them, they were playing on two different playing fields- literally and figuratively. Five year olds can score a zillion goals a game because well really they don't know how to play and they just chase each other around like a swarm of bees. But the eight year olds playing travel ball for the first time had to build their skill, work hard for every little goal, and it was about team wins, not individual goals. This phase for them was just another valuable lesson they'd first learn from each other because this was just the beginning of them understanding how different the "playing fields" were for each of us.

How many times as grown women do we do the same thing my oldest just did to my youngest? How many times do we avoid congratulating someone or offering someone support because we see it as a reflection of our own short comings or flaws rather than just being happy for someone's victory because just as my younger daughter never saw it as being better than her big sister, more times than not, women don't see their successes and victories as better than someone else; it's just about personal victory in being better than their former self.

I totally get my oldest's struggle this season; it's been a knock to her confidence. Last week she scored her first goal of the season, and to see her pride in herself was something we all missed seeing this year. I know all too well though how we can let our failures or lack of success quickly overshadow the glimpses of success that we get. How many times do I myself let my own failures as a teacher or writer discourage and weigh me down to the point that I am the grumpy the eight year old I'm staring down at, trying to figure out how to tell her to manage her own frustration with herself without tearing down her sister in the process. I'm the 36 year old version of her- frustrated with some editor's latest rejection, frustrated with some latest walk through observation, frustrated with some parent's latest complaint. Those tend to overshadow my one in about five acceptances or positive feedback verse criticism or parent thank you verse complaint so my first reaction at someone else's success is to react in a somewhat similar salty way. But then I remember their success isn't about the lack of my own. Their "playing field" and challenges on their field to overcome to reach their successes are different than the ones I must overcome. We'll all reach our successes and victories in our own time, and they'll be mixed in with our failures and setback. This will be the case with their friends and the women they surround themselves with as well so I hope they always remember the biggest competition we're trying to best is not the girls or women in our lives but ourselves. 

I guess it's good to have a healthy sibling rivalry to some extent, but I hope they each learn their sister's successes is never their failure. They are each going to excel at different things and at different times throughout their whole life.

My Letters to a Daughter book for parents and daughters will be released later this month. Be sure to join the online launch party here for all the details.

Check out my latest published piece on motherhood after depression on Lose the Cape

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