Day 3: A Lesson on Birth Order

I grew up an older sister, so I never thought much about what it was like to be a younger sibling.  I’d heard over and over how my sister got a speech impediment from my speech impediment.  She learned to sit in the backseat from my always sitting in the front seat.  She did this and that and the other thing because I did them, in that order, that certain way.  I always thought it was a little bit of a cop-out.  I mean, how could one child really be influenced so much, even to the point of physically modeling their speech, by their older sibling?

And then I started to see it happening with my two children.  My little one wants to do every single thing his brother does.  Exactly like his brother does.  And some of it is great – he models my five-year-old’s wonderfully descriptive language and imaginative play.  He sits down with his older brother’s preschool class and behaves exactly like his brother does, sitting quiet and attentive.  He looks out the car window and shares his brother’s excitement for corn fields, tractors, and helicopters.

But he also models the not-so-great stuff.  When his brother back talks to me, he shouts the exact phrases.  When his brother refuses to listen and runs off at a park or a store, he follows suit.  And when his brother cries over some ridiculous little wrong, he collapses on the floor with fake screams as well.  It’s like having twins, only the power is just slightly imbalanced between them.

This is the thing I never considered before.  It’s nearly impossible for the younger sibling to be first or fastest or strongest or bestest at anything when one is a toddler and the other thinks he’s an adult at age five.   The time will come when my little one surpasses his brother in height,  I can already tell, and he’s already almost got a jump on the big brother’s letter sound knowledge.  But those aren’t really the things that matter to a two-year-old.  He wants to be first in a race, ride his bike faster, and just once beat his brother to the front door so he can open it first.

I try to remind my five-year-old that it’s not really fair to always win just because he can.  That it would be really great of him to let his little brother be the winner a few times.  And my husband and I constantly step in for the little one when his play/snack/movie desires are thwarted by his brother’s sense of older-child-entitlement.

So I guess my mom was onto something.  Being the older sibling really is pretty awesome.  But being the younger one who wants to be as awesome does look kind of tough from this angle.

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