Sibling Comparisonitis – The Cuteness
For the first year or so of Eloise’s life I put side by side photos on Facebook comparing Dylan and Eloise when they were babies – in the same Halloween costume, at the zoo with the elephant, even in the same pretty dress (another 21st photo for poor Dylan). Oh the cuteness!
Last week, I caught myself talking about Eloise’s ability in gymnastics class and comparing it to Dylan’s. Yesterday a friend remarked I how complex Eloise’s speech was for her age and it got me likening it to what Dylan was like at the same age.
In fact, any area is up for grabs including all the baby things – teething, crawling, sitting up, walking, eating. Now the kids are five and two, personality and both physical and mental development are contrasted. And don’t forget physical appearance – a huge focus for any sibling comparison.
Sibling Comparisonitis – The Questions
Why do we do this? Is this ‘compare and contrast’ of our kids something ingrained in all parents? Do we want them to be the same or different? Are we trying to prove something by comparing them so much?
Is this phenomenon of comparing our kids to each other a good or bad thing?
Should we stop sibling comparisonitis?
Sibling Comparisonitis – The Good
It is definitely not all bad. Side by side photos of our babies in delightful outfits and lovely settings can’t ever be thought of as a bad thing. It is too darn adorable.
Noticing things the children do the same at the same age is also a revelation for parents. Some things really do follow a typical developmental timeline. At around two years of age, both Dylan and Eloise went through a stage of saying ‘nigh nighs’ (good night) to all their toys. Something they both quickly grew out of, but super cute to observe for a brief time.
Detecting things that are different between my two kids is interesting. Eloise, at two and half, is going through a stage of wanting us to read the same book over and over for a week at a time. She even sometimes requests the repetition of the same book immediately after I just read it to her! I can’t remember Dylan ever doing that.
Observing our beautiful tiny humans as they grow is a great thing to do and should be encouraged as it is what shared family memories are made of.
Sibling Comparisonitis – The Bad
Where we may go wrong is when there is a negative overtone to the comparison. I do this all the time! Dylan has better co-ordination when it comes to riding a bike, but Eloise has superior co-ordination in gymnastics class.
I have also noticed that I tend to focus more on the similarities between Dylan and Eloise than the differences, leading to Eloise going without. Dylan decided when he was very young that he didn’t like tomatoes. Because we very rarely dish up tomatoes to Dylan, Eloise ends up missing out on them as well. When I threw a couple of cherry tomatoes into her bowl of vegetables the other day she devoured them like a zombie who has come across a fresh corpse.
One of the worst outcomes of comparing siblings is contrasting some behavior that is difficult now with a rose-tinted view the other child. Memories do get fuzzy and what is hard now supersedes problems long since resolved. Eloise was an amazing sleeper as a baby but since she hit two years old we have been going through a bad patch of night wakings. Dylan seems like an angel as he sleeps so well but we kind of forget that he basically didn’t sleep at all for the first four months of his life!
Sibling Comparisonitis – The Strange
The strangest thing about all this comparing and contrasting is that we often get surprised when the second child is different to the first child. We celebrate the similarities and overlook the differences.
However, we should be surprised that there are ANY similarities at all! Think about it. The second child has an older sibling to talk with and copy behavior from. With Eloise, we are more relaxed as parents. She is a girl. Her height, hair color and eye color are not the same. Heck, she falls into a different Chinese Zodiac sign.
She is a whole entire another human being!
Sibling Comparisonitis – The Answer
Maybe it is impossible to stop sibling comparisonitis. It is baked into us as parents as soon as there are two or more kids in the family. But it is good to be aware of it so we can tone down the negative and celebrate the best parts.
One of those best parts is celebrating our kids’ differences. Let’s do more of this. With everyone. That we are all Homo sapiens yet all unique is the defining feature of our humanity.