What Motivates A Younger Sibling? The Spotlight.

Despite my belief that I really don’t care if my kids learn to ride a bike, we’ve succumbed to social pressures and gotten our daughters bikes. It really did get embarrassing watching a 4 year-old cram herself onto a tricycle built for a toddler. We got Lucy, our oldest daughter, a bike over a year ago. In that time, she’s ridden it about five times. I’ve asked her if she wants to ride many more times, but I’m not going to pressure her. If she wants to, she wants to. We got Evie, our younger daughter, a bike about a month ago. Evie has already ridden her bike more times that her older sister has ever ridden hers, and she knows it.

The first time Evie tried to ride her bike she sat on it for about ten seconds, pedaled forward about eight inches, and immediately decided she had had enough. Great, I thought, now I have two bikes taking up space in my garage. Should I just resell them now and just assume they won’t notice when they’re gone? Or flat out tell them that since they didn’t ride them, they won’t have them anymore? Luckily for my kids, before I had to take any drastic actions, Evie’s instinct to show up her big sister kicked in.

Both girls said they wanted to ride bikes. Evie got on her bike. Lucy made awkward eye contact with hers. The more comfortable Evie felt on her bike, the more angry Lucy got. Partly at my wife and I for having the nerve to ask her if she actually wanted to ride it, and why she wasn’t riding it. And I think partly at herself for not being able to get over her fear and frustration. Upon seeing her older sister’s frustration overflow, Evie used that as her fuel. Her Luigi Complex was activated. The more Lucy pouted, the faster Evie pedaled. The louder Lucy screamed, the wider Evie smiled. Lucy ended up getting sent to her room, and Evie was free to explore the great outdoors perched atop her little bike. Her face lit with a smile that was an equal mix of pride in herself, joy in her experience, and domination over her sister.

“How do you like this shit?”

In a classic younger sibling move, Evie was doing something her older sister couldn’t do, and she savored every single second of it. Not to be outdone, even our little boy proudly climbed on his newly inherited tiny tricycle and wobbled his way up and down the sidewalk, content in his own little world. Both of them enjoying their time in the sun. Try as we might to treat all our kids the same, our kids have gone and turned themselves into stereotypical oldest, middle, and youngest kids.

Lucy didn’t want to ride her bike because she was afraid she couldn’t do it perfectly, and seeing that her younger sister could do something she couldn’t – she melted down. Evie saw the opportunity to upstage her older sister and she sunk her teeth into it like a hungry puma. The baby brother needed to do nothing other than play with a toy like a normal boy to get all the attention from his mommy he wanted. Were we even a real family at this point or poorly developed characters in a sitcom? Give us a laugh track and a wacky neighbor and we’re ready for the 8:30 time slot on TGIF.

As much as we try to treat our kids the same, is that even possible? Are the dynamics at play and the developed personality types too strong to overcome? I love the fact that my little girl was able to take to riding her bike so quickly, but I don’t love the fact that her key motivation seemed to be pissing her sister off. I get it. But I don’t love it. Why can’t both kids just ride their bikes, or clean their rooms, or get ready for school in the morning, or do anything they are asked to do at all without a determining factor being how their sister will feel about? On one hand, I appreciate the balance this provides. Whenever one kid is being a little shit, the other is overly good to make herself look even better by contrast. On the other hand, can’t they just be good on their own? No, they can’t. The older sister will forever be motivated by showing her younger sister what she can do that they can’t, and the younger sister will forever be motivated by telling their older sister to cram it. This time was bike riding, God help me when it’s boys.

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