Monday, September 24, 2007

A Perfect (Kris)Ten

Stop copying me! Any person with siblings has screamed this at one time or another. My mother insisted that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery but that provided little solace to having one sister who repeated my words and another that repeated my actions. Particularly difficult was growing up with a sister like Krissy who was 3 years younger but consistently excelled beyond her age in her accomplishments. We sang in the choir, competed in the same sports, played the violin, excelled in academics, participated in similar after school activities and shared many friends. The frustrating thing was not really the copying of what I did as much as the surpassing; everything I could do Krissy could do better.

Being the oldest child comes with certain parental and societal expectations including the dreaded burden of setting a good example for younger siblings; being well behaved, achieving academic success, and providing parents a helping hand when in need. Parents unknowingly increase the pressure on the oldest through setting the expectation that their role is to outperform their siblings, creating an instant rivalry and a source of constant competition. Other factors like growing up in a small town and being in a family of all girls, fueled our fire and created the most intense rivalry seen since that between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.
-Margaret Mead

Krissy had her own set of birth-order issues; with only three years difference she was all too often compared to her older sister. Teachers and coaches were quick to pick up on the relationship and point out my past performances to her. Krissy struggled to find her own place in the world, one that allowed her to demonstrate her strengths outside the family circle. Like many middle siblings, she eventually chose different paths then her us just to carve her own destiny, where she did excel and shine. What no one ever told her was even if she continued to drive down a path in direct competition with her sisters she would have eventually shown the world something I have known for years; Krissy is one tough cookie who could beat us at anything she put her mind to.

Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize. Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks. Borrow. Break. Monopolize the bathroom. Are always underfoot. But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there. Defending you against all comers.
- Pam Brown

While Krissy thought it was tough living in my shadow, she did not know it was the shadow she cast with her brilliance, her talent, her beauty and her success that drove me to work harder just to maintain my place in the pack. Krissy’s achievements provided a constant source of pressure and my achievements would be a fraction of what they are today without such a fierce competitor. Even in our adulthood, many years removed from attending the same school and living in the same house, I live in fear of what she will accomplish next and what that will inevitably drive me to do. Will I need to get a masters degree, swim the English Channel or take up the oboe just to feel adequate in her presence? Time will only tell…

Although Krissy is smarter, prettier and more talented then me, she never got the praise, credit and attention she deserved. That has some to do with being the middle child, but it has more to do with the most important lesson I learned from our competitive relationship; the power of self-promotion. As any business student learns, it is not necessarily the best product that gets the biggest sales but often the best marketing plan. Krissy forced me to be more outgoing, to point out my achievements, to refocus the attention on me and to realize that it is not what you know, or even who you know, but who knows you that counts. I learned that there will always be people in the world who are equally if not more gifted and talented and part of success is marketing yourself.

When sisters stand shoulder to shoulder, who stands a chance against us?
- Pam Brown

For 29 years, my sister has kept me on my toes and made me a more successful person. The beauty of sisterhood is while this rivalry could have driven us apart, it instead made us stronger and closer. While we continue to compete with each other I know the moment it is us against the world, our teamwork will give the rest of the planet quite a run for their money. Krissy becomes more amazing and unstoppable with every passing year and I look forward the increased competition as she enters her 29th year. Happy Birthday!


Cornish Gamehen said...

Michelle, you've always been true to yourself and the charge in my spark plugs. This year has been a liberating one for me, and my sisters are the center of that fundamental character that defines who I am. Thank you for helping me rediscover and reintroduce to the world that unstoppable person.

NeeNee said...

Kristen you sound like a saint and Miss America. I only got the funny genes? I got the short end of the stick

Both my sisters are amazing role models. But ya sucked at breaking all the rules and making the parents tired. Instead I still got in trouble for my antics. Thanks for nothing :-)

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Actually, sainthood is easier to attain with regular church attendance and Miss America would require the ability to walk across stage without tripping, so we're all out.