Living in the shadow

I am told it’s not easy living in an older sibling’s shadow. Constantly being compared, usually unfavourably, by parents and teachers. You’re not as good at maths as your older brother, you’re not as well-behaved as your sister…

If that’s hard, imagine how much harder it must be to be living in the shadow of your younger brother. That’s what my eldest son has to deal with every day of his life and it’s not easy. There are two years and four months between my boys, and three whole school years. Yet my younger son is constantly snapping at my eldest’s heels in whatever he does. It’s not that my eldest is bad at stuff. He isn’t. His younger brother is just so much better.

Take every parent’s favourite way of comparing ‘intelligence’. Reading. By the end of year 1, my younger son was just one reading level down from his brother (12th out of 14 colour bands). Two months into year 2, and they were on the same level. And let’s not forget, my eldest isn’t stupid. He’s above average at everything.

Just before Christmas last year, my younger son started playing football and my eldest started playing rugby. Apart from the inconvenience of one being on a Saturday morning and the other being on a Sunday, I was glad they were doing something independently of each other and my eldest might get the chance to shine away from his brother. Having never played rugby before, he literally threw himself in, and he surprised and impressed us all with how quickly he developed and how soon he fitted in with a team of experienced players.

We gave him lots of praise. I was happy for him to be there on his own, but Daddy had other ideas. If he was going to be at the rugby ground with my eldest, surely he might as well take my younger son too? I pointed out this wasn’t in my eldest’s interests. I knew exactly what would happen. My little boy would stroll in and be brilliant, completely taking the shine off his older brother’s hard work.

And so I was proved right. After about three months, we all caved in and my younger son went off to rugby. They’re not in the same team, but they’re in the same club. My little boy waltzed in, having never picked up a rugby ball, and was brilliant as predicted. My husband, who actually has some idea what is going on on the rugby ground, says he’s the second best on his team. The best has been playing since he was 5 and his older bother is the best player on my eldest son’s team. You get the picture.

When it comes to big tournaments, my youngest won’t be left out for five games and crying tears of pure anger, accompanied by a tearful mother. No, he will be in the A team, one of the chosen ones, first choice in every game.

My eldest plays violin. It is probably the only thing he can do that his brother can’t. After a shaky start when he really didn’t get it at all, he plays very well. His timing is good and his notes sound perfect to me (although I don’t have a musical bone in my body). He reads music well and genuinely enjoys playing. He played in the school Christmas concert last year and in a summer concert at school earlier this year. He gets LOTS of praise for his violin.

Now my younger son is in year 3, he can play a musical instrument. Because he is so clever, I actually think it is important that he does sport and music to give him another outlet for his talents. To keep him busy and keep him out of mischief.

I didn’t mind what he played, apart from one thing. NO VIOLIN. We have bought violins. We have three of the buggers hanging around the house, they will be used again, but by my daughter, not my son. I couldn’t have him muscling in and being good at the one remaining thing which sets his brother apart from him. So B2 is playing guitar and, yes, after a handful of lessons, he is doing brilliantly.

You may wonder how my eldest copes. With a combination of anger, jealousy and pride. The anger and jealousy show themselves at home. Not all the time, but every now and then it does get a bit much for him. But outside the house it’s all about pride. Showing off, even. He will tell anyone that will listen how clever his brother is and how good his brother is at football. If people don’t believe how clever he is, my eldest will go inside to get his brother’s reading book out to show them.

And he can’t WAIT to have his brother on the team for all the inter-house competitions at school. With B2 on side, B1 believes, their house will be unstoppable.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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