Why Settle For 2nd Chair?


Jake, my eight-year-grandson, has never met a stranger. Every fiber in his being is laced with extrovert tendencies. Frankly, I’m a little envious. He is not at all intimidated by engaging an adult in conversation. A neighbor mentioned to me on Sunday that his son, who is a year older than Craig, was commenting on Jake. He said something closely akin to: “Jake has a great personality and he is really funny. He definitely has the ability to think on his feet”. For example, Jake had shared that the deer his sister killed was bigger than the deer he had killed. I’ll tell you more about that conversation later.


Sibling rivalry or competition is as commonplace as the morning dew in most families that have more than one child. Of course, in Jake’s case, he was born into a family where competition and the need to be a high achiever seems as normal as the hands on a clock rotating to the right. I get it. I grew up in a similar household. It was particularly true of the relationship that Ronnie and I shared. “Whose the smartest?” “Whose the fastest?” “Whose the strongest?” “Whose this” and “whose that” were the comparative questions that folks repeatedly pelted out for us to answer.


Of course, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the answers that Ronnie and I provided to the questions asked of us were also based on our bias and personal perceptions. We did not easily concede or yield to the other’s perception of superiority.


Growing up in a family of three boys, I have absolutely no idea how difference in gender manifest itself in sibling relationships or the need to be competitive. Yet, I’m sure it is a factor that has to be factored into the equation. Okay guys, we’ve all heard that girls mature more quickly that boys, but do you really believe that is true? If you were to ask the General, she’d probably suggest that I never grew up. She’s perfectly content being retired and considers it age appropriate. On the other hand, I’m struggling to get to that same place.


I also wonder how birth order factors into the dynamic? That, too, could be a contributing factor. In terms of my grandchildren, Jenna is the oldest. She also has a tendency to be a little bossy. Okay, I may be overstating or understating it, but she definitely has that “I’m in charge” persona. Of course, her brothers don’t necessarily choose to follow her instructions. “Good for them!” Did I say that out-loud?


So is that “take charge” persona tied to birth order, gender, environment or all three? If I ask enough questions, I could get into a heap of trouble. That is particularly true if the General reads my blog. I’m not a gambling man, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the General pelted out orders for her younger siblings during their growing up years.


If you have an opinion or experience related to sibling rivalry or competition, I’d be interested in your insight or experience. I probably should think of a more subtle way to express this: “Are older brothers as adapt at engaging younger siblings in assigned tasks?” That is a question for which I have no idea.


Please hear me say, “I’m not suggesting that the ability to share insight, wisdom, wise counsel and an assignment or two to younger siblings is a character flaw? I’m not saying that at all. I am simply suggesting that birth order, gender and environment or life experiences all factor in to influences formative in a youngster’s life.


My grandchildren don’t attempt to negate the accomplishments of their siblings to enhance their own. They don’t share that kind of sibling rivalry. They actually are a very close-knit harmonious group. William and Jake are very close. It is almost as though Jakes sees his older brother as his hero. They celebrate the success of each other, but they also want their own opportunities stay in the high achiever category. You can rest assured, if one shoots a deer, it befalls the other two to want the same opportunity.


So what was the conversation that Jake was sharing with my friend’s adult son? Jake was talking about the deer he shot and comparing it to the deer his sister shot. He said this: “The deer my sister shot was a little bigger than mine”. He then added the caveat: “Of course, that was her first deer. When I was six, I got a six pointer. The day I turned eight years old, I got an eight pointer. It is just going to get better for me.” The man he was talking with countered: “It seems to me that you’ll soon be running out of more pointers that you can get.” Jakes response was immediate and it was dismissive. He responded, “Not at all, I’ll just shoot two deer.”


Of course, my grandchildren are in a regimented environment where accomplishment and winning is a value highly regarded. If you question that, watch both of their parents watch Texas A&M play football. You’d be amazed! You’d think it was a life or death situation. Neither parent manifest the persona that “it is only a game”. No wonder their children aren’t content to be anything less than first chair or in the  winners circle. No doubt, that competitive edge will serve them well in life.


All My Best!




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