Sibling Rivalry

I only have limited knowledge of sibling rivalry and it’s based on growing up with brothers in a large extended family of aunts and uncles on both sides.  My other experience involves observing other childhood friends and adults as they grow up with brothers and sisters, and a comparison to the show “Brothers and Sisters.”

I don’t recall much competition between me and my brother until we were in our mid twenties.  We were only a couple of years apart, so naturally we had an unspoken competition and natural competitive streak in sports, life, and business.  It didn’t often affect our relationships, other than the occasional comment of “college vs. no college” or hopes for success in business.  I think it’s safe to say, we didn’t suffer from sibling rivalry, but we didn’t spend all of our childhood years under the same roof and we weren’t in business together, like our Dad’s and Mom’s.  We used to play racquetball which was the extent of our competition, although secretly I did feel some competition in family success, but more so a comparison of how I turned out vs. how he turned in terms of family success.  We’ve all had our failures.

In childhood, I do somewhat remember trying to be my mom or dad’s favorite, but I don’t remember trying to be better than my brother.  I looked up to my big brother to learn from or to be beat up or deceived by; never feeling like I was unliked, but happy to be a little sister growing up with my big brother and his friends.

Where does the term sibling rivalry come from and is it no longer in use?  It was used back in the 80s and 90s to describe the competition between siblings and was meant to show how children compete for parental attention, something we didn’t really have to deal much with in our teenage years.  Perhaps as a child we competed for mom or dad’s attention by tattling or by trying to be better behaved or more awesome at sports than our sibling, but nothing in my mind is imprinted as bad or good in this department.

One thing that is memorable and worthy of writing about is my observation of my parents’ sibling rivalry.  As a child, I often observed my Mother in competition with her Sister for parental and brotherly acceptance.  They often fought, one trying to be better than the other.  They worked in the same field, so I observed their rivalries in the field of waitressing; to see who was more likable and better at her job in the eyes of the community.  It did not seem to be present in my Mom’s Brother’s; although they worked together.  They seemed to have more of a teachable and brotherly mentality rather than a desire to be better than one another.

My stepdad had a brother and some rivalry was present there and he would often times remind us not to think we’re better than anyone else.  His brother was gay; so it was a good lesson in treating people with kindness and respect and not trying to prove one is better than the other; no matter how different they might be.  Something my brothers lack now.

In later life, I observed my Dad’s sibling rivalry with his brother in business.  I don’t have much to say other than there always seems to be one that tried to prove he or she is better and one that just sits back and observes the behavior, sometimes joining in on the competition in building or creating a successful life, but they’ve all ended in marital failures or financial setbacks.  I found many Brothers have a very difficult time working together.

I don’t know who created the term sibling rivalry, but I just didn’t see it present in my family and if it was, it wasn’t welcomed or accepted.  I do recall an aunt and an uncle on my Dad’s side often comparing herself to my Dad, attempting prove they were better than him, which made me angry, but I learned it was their own way of gaining parental adoration; something my Dad chose to let go of at an early age.  Perhaps it was their way of gaining my respect or their odd style of reassuring me that I was going to be okay without my Dad since I had them.  I don’t know, but I guess it was sibling rivalry.

In the show “Brothers and Sisters” they owned a family business and some sibling rivalry was present to gain the Mother’s approval or acceptance.  I only watched a few episodes of the business drama to see how they interacted and what the main premise was, but found the show was mainly about who has a problem with who today and how does the mom feel about it.

I guess no family is complete without some form of sibling rivalry.


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