Over this blog project there will be hopefully four guest blogs. I will give a short introduction to each, like this one, so you know who is writing. But will leave everything else to them. These blogs will vary in their subject matter, just like all the ones I’m writing. And the writers vary in their backgrounds and their relationship to me. Today’s blog, however, is still relatively personal to me and written by someone I’m very close to… My big brother Simon.
Write about siblinling rivalry…
What an eye-rollingly obvious topic, eh? Perhaps, but it’s notas if I could reel off a thousand examples of competitions and fights between Lex and I. Our relationship has constituted many things over the years, but I’m not sure that “rivalry” really features.
My wife Nicci and I have recently been debating the pros and cons of various age-gaps between siblings, and it’s emerged – probably not surprisingly – that we’ve both been influenced heavily by our own experiences. A gap of 1 or 2 years, such as my wife’s to her older brother, means that playing together and sharing toys is a lot more likely. From a parental point of view (where being even a tiny bit selfish is a rare treat), there’s a lot more chance that they’ll basically keep each other busy and therefore out of your hair for longer as well!
She definitely found her brother annoying at times, but the relationship from her perspective was a lot about admiration, emulation, and trying to match him skill-for-skill. In physical terms this was never going to work (as you’ll know if you’ve met them!), and all too often games ended with Niccicrumpled in a heap and her brother emitting a panicked “don’t tell mum!” They were academically close enough together, though, for rivalry to emerge on things like their daily times-tables and spelling challenges. Undoubtedly this pushed them both forwards. As a result of all this (and many more reasons I won’t go into), she favours leaving – as much as you can ever be in control of it – a smaller gap between children. [Calm down Lex, step away from the knitting!]
For Lex and I, the gap is 4¾ years – a virtual lifetime in child terms. Somewhere near the top end of primary school I worked out that our parents were separated by 8 years, andthat the equivalent for me at that point would have been marrying a literal toddler! Too weird. At school, fraternising with anyone outside your own year was just not the donething. Sunday school and family friends might widen the acceptability somewhat, but I don’t think Lex and I were ever that close to being on the same page.
I can’t really remember us ever playing something together that we both enjoyed and in which we were equally invested,so there was never really a contest. I do, however, remember very clearly bartering with Lex on the subject of playtime. I would offer half an hour of my time to her (playing what I couldn’t tell you) in return for me getting a human GranTurismo opponent for one race. Keen to actually make it a race, I would pick a car with around 20% of the horsepower of hers. I had also discovered a handicap feature which would put me 1km further back from the start line, and with those two tweaks in place … I only beat her by maybe 30 seconds.
Rivalry is, I suppose, determination to best another person at something. In the example above, I knew I was going to win and Lex didn’t care. Trying to think about when her skills and abilities have frustrated me, it’s family holidays that come to mind.
If there’s one time when siblings have no choice but to stick together and make their own fun, with limited stuff and often in limited space, it is these times. And many of ours were *special* holidays; I mean, tiddly cottage in a field behind the sea wall near Great Yarmouth, anyone? How about a wind-whipped cabin in the wilderness outside York? But even in these desolate places, Lex somehow managed to find a similarly-aged friend, a kindred spirit, among the neighbouring, desperate families.
Quicker than you can say “oh look there’s a cupboard full of knackered board games!” she would be gone, leaving me with no play companion for the remaining 6.9 days of the holiday. I never hated Lex as a kid, but boy did that frustrate me.
So does a big age gap guarantee there won’t be sibling rivalry? I don’t think so. When it gets really nasty is in those families where one or both parents are, say, doctors, and two or more kids feel inclined to follow the same path. No matter what the age gap, that kind of pressure married to ease of comparison is going to end in tears. But, for Lex and I, it’s not exactly easy to score ourselves against the other.
Different secondary schools, different subject choices. Totally different approaches to further education. Shameless corporate career versus a (probable) life in charity, church and the public sector. She a published author and avid blogger, me … not. Unless you count video Press release.
But then again, at the first whisper of an invitation to get myself published by her royal blogness I leapt at the chance, determined to show that I can write something good too. Maybe she is a rival after all…