I want to make clear that I am not a child psychiatrist, counselor, pediatrician, not even a team coach. I am simply the mother of two grown sons, now the grandmother of three granddaughters, soon-to-be the grandmother of twin grandsons.
Our sons were sixteen months apart. They were best friends, always playing a pickup game of ball together in the yard with the neighborhood kids, little brother tagging along to keep up with big brother's friends. They played on the same high school baseball and ice hockey teams together, each earning "Most Valuable Player" in successive years. Every other year they were on the same All-Star hockey team together, where they looked out for each other's backs. Older brother Tim, the defenseman, wiped out anyone going after little brother as he sped down the ice to score. And vice-versa. During one national championship in Peoria, Illinois, Tim had his arm inadvertantly slashed by an opponent's skate blade. Little brother, not accepting that it was an accident, retaliated and was removed from the tournament!
Both sons competed against each other on baseball teams in the Ivy League, before becoming professionals for the Boston Red Sox. With geographical distance, it was easier not to worry how one measured up against a brother. In the Ivy League, when they played each other, each wanted his own team to win but also wanted to do well against his brother. In the professionals, when their careers were at stake, they distanced themselves from each other to the extent that teammates sometimes didn't realize they were brothers. Today, no longer playing ball, they remain good friends and talk regularly, despite the distance of several states from each other.
The point of all this is that from a very early age, the boys expressed their rivalry by doing what boys do: they were constantly wrestling, rolling around, sometimes punching or screaming at each other. When each finally found a niche that he could excel in, the rivalry became less aggressive, but nevertheless remained under the surface.
Our first two granddaughters are sisters, eighteen months apart. The older one, now five, is truly a diva. She loves to sing, dance, and be the star. She is serious about whatever task she attempts and excels in mechanical skills and verbal skills. Her younger sister, a true free-spirit at age three and one-half, has become more and more rebellious. Not only does she make her mark by being an imp, she is openly defiant if she is thwarted and will do the opposite of what she is asked. She'll run down the beach in the opposite direction if asked to stay with her parents (or grandparents); she'll pick her nose among adults when asked not to; she'll find the most bizarre combinations when she dresses herself.
None of us are surprised by little sister's reaction. Her older sister is a tough act to follow, and they are not rolling around on the floor, grabbing each other in head-locks, the way the boys did. Nor does she bite, which our younger son started during preschool. Some of the methods my husband and I employed to stop their anti-social behavior would demand a report today to the Child Welfare Service! Little sister will find her niche, since she is by far the more creative of the two.
From the sidelines, it seems to my husband and me that she needs some time away from big sis. Maybe time alone with Mom and Dad for some TLC, which she now gets in big doses, but undivided. Maybe time alone with grandpa and grandma (either set of grandparents is begging to take her), for some TLC.
And then we will watch our third granddaughter, only two and one-half, to see how her actions change when twin brothers are born next month. At that point, we will all become amateur psychiatrists!