I know a thing or two about growing up in the shadow of achievement. I am the youngest of five daughters, and one of them in particular was rather accomplished in school (the #3 daughter). As a young student, I was compared favorably to this sibling: "Oh, you're getting excellent grades just like your sister!" and "Oh, you'll be accepted to college early just like your sister!"
It was a heavy burden. As the first-American born daughter in a family of immigrants, there were high expectations in our family. My parents came to the United States so that their children would have better educational opportunities, so I was born knowing that much was expected of me. It was easy at first. I was learning to speak when my family was learning English, so learning to read at a very young age was not that extraordinary. Throughout my early grade school years, my grades were nearly perfect, so it was only natural that my parents had me tested to see if I was "gifted." I was summarily transferred to a "gifted" school in order to be amongst my so-called peers.
By the time high school came around, however, it was apparent I wasn't really all that extraordinary. I struggled mightily my first semester, and I nearly failed English class, which had always been my strongest subject. I rallied, though, and graduated with honors, but by then the luster had worn off. My parents knew I wasn't the second coming of the Golden Child (their #3 daughter). Sadly, my parents never lived long enough to see me graduate from university and graduate school, but they did witness my graduation from junior college. I think they were proud.
Fast forward to present day. My first-born is a Golden Child: accomplished in academics and music, and a recipient of numerous character awards. She belongs to several honor societies and is considered a leader by her some of peers. She is well liked and has many friends. Most people know who she is by her laugh, her singing voice, and her long, long hair. It's difficult not to notice her when she's in a group.
My son is the second-born, the only son. He has a sensitive heart, and a goofy sense of humor. He earned three black belts in tae kwon do before the age of 14 and loves to play video games. He has never had many friends, bullies picked on him throughout grade school, and girls thought he was "weird." He is very bright, but he doesn't think he is. He hates doing homework, isn't that motivated, and his grades have never reflected his ability - only his lack of output.
Wednesday night, it was his turn to step out of the shadow of his Golden Child sister and be in the limelight. After a late-semester surge, my funny and amazing son pulled his grades up and earned an honor cord for academic achievement for first semester.
I always knew he could shine. Now he knows it, too.