Nothing is ever new.
Sophomore Linda Wogulis tried to expect something different, such as a simple “yes” or “no”, when she asked to go to a sleepover. Instead, she got the usual sibling comparison from her parents that included the typical phrases, “Why do you go out with friends? [Your older sister] Danielle wasn’t like that. Why aren’t you more like Danielle?”
Like some other parents, Wogulis’ parents compare her to an older sibling and expect some similarities.
However, Wogulis notes that this is not the case between her and her sister.
“My parents expect me to be the exact same as my sister and they are dead wrong. My sister and I are totally polar opposites. She is studious and shy, and I’m just not,” Wogulis said.
In sophomore Gunjary Raychaudhuri’s case, she not only feels pressure from parents, but from teachers as well.
“I’m sure [teachers] have expectations for me since my sister was very smart. It is a little daunting on first day of school when they all say, ‘oh, you must be Blossom’s sister!’” Raychaudhuri said.
Wogulis and Raychaudhuri are not the only students frustrated and annoyed with sibling comparisons. “My parents expect me to be perfect like my sister!” sophomore Natalie Ho said.
All this pressure can be discouraging and challenging.
“It is really hard to get people to realize that I am not my sister and they can’t expect the same things,” Wogulis said.
Wogulis also gets discouraged from trying her hardest, since whenever she does try, she feels she won’t live up to her sister’s standards.
Ho had a similar problem. Both Ho and her sister had David Van Muyden as their AP Chemistry teacher. “At first, I felt like I needed to be as good as [my sister] Catherine, but after the first quarter I talked to [Mr. Van Muyden] and now I’m just doing my personal best,” Ho said.
This sibling competition leads to what Katherine Conger, an Associate Professor of Human Development at UC Davis, described as deidentification: when siblings choose different interests to distinguish themselves.
Natalie Ho demonstrated exactly this. Catherine is involved in academics and clubs, while Natalie is more athletic, participating in two high school sports: soccer and cross country.
Raychaudhuri however, feels like she receives the most pressure from herself, constantly pushing herself to excel.
“Sometimes… the pressure sort of gets to me and I have a little meltdown. But I realize that no one wants me to be a clone of Blossom,” she said.
On the other side of the spectrum, even though many people make the connection that sophomore Sean Maroney is “Erik’s brother,” Maroney doesn’t feel any pressure socially or academically. “I don’t really care, I just do what feels good for me,” he said.
Many siblings set a positive reputation for the succeeding sibling, but this is not always the case. When the older sibling engages in delinquent behavior “it is very difficult for the younger sibling to establish their own identity at school” and break away from the previously set reputation, Conger said.
Fortunately, with disadvantages come benefits.
At a new school with a new routine, sophomore Anna Pan said that starting high school as a sophomore can be hard without any prior knowledge. She appreciated having her older brother to advise her.
Conger adds that an older, experienced sibling can help the younger take advantage of the high school opportunities. Whether that is explaining how to access various resources or simply sharing places to study, “the older sibling can clue you in on how things work at [the] high school,” Conger said.
Maroney concurs, saying that because of his older brother, he knows the teachers with good reputations and what to expect from hard classes.
Wogulis adds that because of her older sister, she knows the layout of the school, specific advice on classes and, most importantly, understands what school is like so that it is not as terrifying and new as it is for other new students.