Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

How Road Trips Have Changed

“99 bottles of beer on the wall.  99 bottles of beer.  Take on down, pass it around.  98 bottles of beer on the wall.”  The things we did as kids to occupy our time on road trips.

Of course nothing beat harassing the driver in the car behind ours because they had to look at our stupid faces we made for however long they followed our car.

God help you if you got stuck riding on one of these things for any duration.

Ah… good times.

As a grown up, all I was worried about was having some good tunes to listen to, enough to last the length of time it took to arrive.  Because nothing was a better gauge of how much time you had left to go, than, how many CD’s you had gone through already, and still had to go.

Then, there are the road trips as a parent.  Along with all the necessary baby supplies, there was now the on-board entertainment.

With two children, all that was needed was for both to agree on which movie would be watched first.

And then they become teenagers.  I was expecting to recall the old days of stupid and nonsensical songs.

I want to be clear.  I was blessed with two great travelers.  They started at a very young age with a 16 hour non-stop flight from China, each, and endured several trips, many longer than a six hour drive.  So, my daughters keeping themselves amused is not really a concern.

As I drive with them now, they keep themselves entertained.

And so began the escalation of the level of entertainment.  As my daughters peruse social media, one stumbles upon a particular crude meme, which by itself, stands alone as a conversation starter.  But as my older shows it to me, the gears between my ears go into reverse, and recalling the road trips of my childhood, I take what my daughters have given me…

Upon realizing what I am looking at, the challenge is issued.  How many words can we come up with that will rhyme with the sound “a-shun” to make a catchy slogan to go with the meme.

That killed about a good half an hour of time on that long drive, and provided a lot of words, and a lot laughs.  Then it was back to their phones while I continued the drive.

Out of the blue, I hear from the back seat where my older daughter is sitting, “so Dad.  Who do you think is the better whistler?”

By now I had been driving  four and a half hours straight, listening to “Roxanne” by Arizona Zervas for seemingly the dozenth time, not an exaggeration either and the song is ten times worse than the “Roxanne” by The Police.  Before I answered my daughter, I realized that I actually did hear both of my daughters whistling along to the song, that evidently my efforts to drown out the music, drowned out the whistling as well.

Regardless, I normally do not tune my daughters out for any reason, and having done so in this instance, I was still able to give an answer to my older daughter’s question.

Me:  You know I am not going to answer that question.  There is no “better than” ever, when it comes to you and your sister.

Sibling rivalry goes back centuries.  But over the last several years, I had been noticing a ramping up of “competition”, mainly stirred up in a one sided fashion, always the same daughter looking for the verification of a notch over the other sister.

Besides the fact that my daughters are both adopted, they are legally sisters, but come from different provinces.  They have different skin complexions, different shapes.  Even their hair is different in texture.  The bottom line, I love them both the same.

Decades ago, my mother had been a newspaper reporter for a local paper.  One of her fellow reporters had gone to report on a car accident involving a young driver.  My mother told me the story, how the while the reporter was interviewing the mother of the teenager, who sadly had been killed in the accident, the reporter had discovered that the mother had another child.  To witness my mother tell me what happened next, was pure horror.  The reporter asked, “so which child was your favorite?”  I was not even a teenager myself when I heard this story, but it has always stuck with me.  I could not believe someone could be so mean and insensitive to ask a question like that, EVER!  But before my first daughter was ever placed in my arms, regardless how many children I would have, I would never allow a question like that to be asked of me.

Over the years, I have been asked repeatedly about the “so who is better” by my daughters, more often by my older.  The comparison could have been about karate, eating habits, and of course school.  School comparisons are the hardest to be neutral about, because unlike comparing habits and activities, grades are black and white.  And at least once a year, maybe even twice, I am challenged about the difficulty or ease of school grades.  Both are good students, that is for sure.  But that is definitely where the similarity ends.  They have different study habits.  Both have different interests in school, and therefore have different academic plans.  And yes, grade results are different.  For the most part, they have not had the same teachers for their courses which also plays a role.  It is wrong for either to feel that one just has an easier time, or “comes natural”, and I remind them both of that.  But we are entering an even more difficult time next year.  One daughter has begun the SAT process, and my younger daughter will begin her testing next year.  So I will not only have grades to disprove in importance for comparison sake, but now will be results of the same test, taken by both, for the sake of their continuing education, which of course I am hoping for both.

This issue has its moment where it is a concern to me.  Self esteem development during teen years is tough enough without feeling good enough cognitively.  And if you are an older sibling, there is definitely that feeling that there should be an edge when it comes to grades and scores.

Or could it be more than just sibling rivalry.  What if, as parents, their mother and I actually created the situation that has at least one daughter striving to be different, or better?

I swore I would never do this to my kids, and it happened.  Sure, they looked cute dressed alike, something that was once specific to identical twins, and hilarious unable to tell who was who.  But except for Hallmark Cards or Normal Rockwell paintings, I personally do not care for dressing children identical.  But they were cute.  As time went on, my older daughter would hear the question, “are they twins?” when clearly they are not, but it actually became an irritating question to her.  She loved her sister.  But it bothered her to be considered a twin.

Complicating the matter, was when the decision was made, and I need to state, not by me, and quite possibly not originally agreed upon by both of my daughters, that they would share a bedroom.  They each had their own rooms for the first three years, and then they ended up in the same room, “because that is what sisters do.”

Combining these two factors, I cannot help but wonder, dressing alike, sharing the room with each other, did we as their parents create, or at the least enable the competition levels of the sibling rivalry to escalate.  Admittedly, dressing alike did not allow them to stand out from each other, and having them share a room, when they did not need to, prevented them from developing their independence.  And now, there seems to be a struggle to stand apart, and the only way to accomplish that, is to have higher marks, or to be “better than.”

It seems like a monthly conversation that I have with both daughters.  I emphasize how much I love them both the same.  There should be no competition between them.  The things that they cannot control that one would have an advantage over the other, is their age, and the time that they were adopted.  Everything else is being determined by nature and nurture.  As they get older, their own individual interests have either developed, or are beginning to develop, and maybe those will change.

And besides loving both daughters the same, they will both get the same encouragement and support in their goals.  That should be important to any parent.

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