“I’ll never be as good as Beth!” These were the words I was hearing from my younger daughter, Annie. In her eyes, she had the misfortune of having to follow in the footsteps of a very talented big sister. Beth had an amazing voice, played the piano well, excelled in school in both language arts and math, was well liked by all of her teachers, kept her room immaculate, and was obedient to the rules of the house and, consequently, was seldom in trouble. What an act for her to follow.
Every child is unique and has gifts and talents of their own. Some of these gifts are obvious and make a child stand out from the crowd. We notice the child with musical talents that has a chance to perform or the artist who has work on display. Likewise we give honor to star athletes whose games we are able to attend. Those who have a gift for acting or speaking are also given a venue to display those talents. Academic honors and scholarships are awarded to those who excel in school. But what about the child with gifts that are not so obvious?
Annie was very different from her sister. She was an average student, preferring to work on set designs rather than act in the school plays. She tinkered around at the piano, played the clarinet in the band, not practicing much and so never excelling in that field either. Her room was a disaster and her teenage years were mark by incredible mood swings, making contention in the home the normal state of affairs. She could see no good in herself, no matter how much I tried to point out her strengths and assure her that she was just as talented and loved as her sister. Here is what I saw in my daughter. Annie could charm any animal and any child. She was everyone’s favorite babysitter. Wherever she went people surrounded her. She was excited to see them and made them feel special, so naturally they would be drawn to her. She was an excellent cook and frequently made treats to take to school to celebrate a friend’s birthday or to congratulate them for accomplishments. She listened to people when they needed a shoulder to cry on. She could make up the funniest stories, especially for children, and had everyone laughing. She made you feel good about yourself.
Several years later, when my daughters were married, we chose a small church for Beth’s reception, with seating for about 100, which was more than enough space. When Annie was married, I reserved a place that could hold 500. My husband questioned why I would be doing that. I looked at him and said, “Do you have any idea how many close friends your daughter has? Do you know how much she is loved? I’m not sure that it’s big enough!” And I was right.
When I hear a child say that they will never be as good as someone else, I think of my two daughters, so different and yet both so accomplished. We need to not only recognize each of our children as unique and special, but we need to help them recognize this themselves.