Parents Celebrating siblings

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A's Mom

Proud Parent
Nov 30, 2018
For those of you with a gymnast and sibling who is not competitively athletic: how do you make sure they feel celebrated? I have two kids. My gymnast is a level 7 and practices 22 hrs/wk. Just that alone is a lot of family energy. Then during meet season, it's several weekends of focus on her, as you know. Her sister is a dancer and academically gifted and even takes a rec gymnastics class. She's awesome! But she has fewer than half the number of obvious dates per year to really celebrate her accomplishments, which leaves her feeling like she lives in the gymnast's shadow. We'd like to change that, especially during meet season. What do you do?
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This is a bigger question than just gymnastics and I think about it a lot because I was the trailing sibling growing up. But in the context of gymnastics, I see a lot of teammates’ siblings at meets and end up spending a lot of time with them on meet weekends. I try to get to know them as individuals, not so-and-so’s sister. There is so much downtime that I know some of the siblings better than my daughter’s teammates. It’s not a solution, but adults paying attention to kids’ lives beyond their gymnast siblings can go a long way toward validating their existence and making them feel valued outside their immediate family. It also helps to make sure that meet weekends aren’t only about the gymnast who is competing. We have team siblings who dictate outings, choose restaurants, etc., and it’s really healthy for the entire team to see that it’s not “their” weekend just because a meet is happening.
Older daughter is the gymnast that does 32 hours a week, son does 6 hours JuJitsu a week, and the baby (8) does 3 hours a week soccer. When we take everyone we try and stay a hotels with indoor pools and go to nice restaurants. We also do family trips a lot when we can (Disney, Universal, snow trips). When the other kids don’t come to meets my parents take them everywhere and anywhere they want to go. To be honest it’s the gymnast that gets jealous sometimes.
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Like @GymDadWA, we don't really 'celebrate' the sporting event either. My daughter's successes were primarily hers to 'celebrate'. I'm just as proud of her whether she placed 1st or last. She worked hard training all year, the meet itself is the reward. It's just not our family's style to celebrate a particularly high score or podium finish. If anything, we are more apt to 'celebrate' or rather soothe a disappointing meet by getting ice cream or some other treat.
YDD is currently a gymnast and ODD is a former gymnast, with her own new sporting and non-sporting events now, but certainly not requiring the level of travel and time that gym does. We have done a few things to make this feel balanced.

We don't make ODD come to meets if she will have to miss school or her own practices/activities. We give her the option to come but do not require it. If she can come, we all go together (mostly if it is drivable or if we have family to visit near the meet location or if it is a fun place to visit and we can turn it into a mini-vacation) and if she cannot, one parent goes and one stays home.

We do our best to switch the parent who goes so that our ODD never feels like "well, mom always goes with YDD and never hangs with me". This is somewhat tough to navigate since dad can't do meet hair and since YDD prefers me to go (I'm calmer!). But, for the sake of our ODD truly knowing that we place equal value in everything she does and for the sake of our YDD truly knowing that the world does not revolve around gymnastics, we switch off.

We have friends where both parents go with the gymnast and then another family member takes the siblings to soccer games, swim meets, etc and I always feel horrible for those kids and worry that it will eventually result in some sort of complex for them. Because really, to them, their local soccer game is as important as the gym meet, as it should be.

I strongly agree with many posters above. We don't really celebrate each meet per se. Awards, eat, usually the "celebration" is a DQ Blizzard that both girls get, and then home. And we do the same for our ODD at her events.
I've always felt a bit guilty on my eldest's behalf because the younger kid surpassed the older kid athletically almost the moment she was born....she even learned to ride her bike earlier than the eldest, (literally--the youngest learned to ride when she was 4 and the oldest, who was 7, hadn't figured it out yet). But, the eldest has never cared about it, really, and has other interests and talents (they are a really talented writer and actor). So they don't end up competing against each other and they are really good friends to each other.
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Thanks, y'all. I appreciate all your perspectives. We don't celebrate meets beyond sometimes ice cream either. And little sister doesn't have to come - often she'll have a sleepover with a friend and that makes her plenty happy. If she has her own event, at least one parent is there.

I guess what I'm asking about is the more day-to-day. Even if we don't make a big deal of meets, we're still going to them. Even if we don't fuss about practice, our family schedule is heavily influenced by it, you know? How do we help her feel just as important when she simply doesn't require the same amount of running around?
Gymnastics can feel like the monster that ate your family's life (money, time and focus.) But I do not think kids measure their worth by how much or little running around has to be done on their behalf. Being part of a family means your scedule is determined by the needs of other family members, and having siblings provides many life lessons including that life is never completely fair or equal. If one sibling has more going on than the other, that is just life. It sounds like your non-gymnast daughter has activities she enjoys and a social life. She clearly has a loving mom. I wonder if the family gym focus is a worry your dd is having, or is it more like mom guilt because things are not exactly equal? Maybe check in with your daughter and let her express frustrations she has- if any. Listen to her. Have conversations. Joke around, whatever. One thing we do occasionally is a restaurant meal or outing with one or both parents and ONE of the kids at a time. Even just brief errands where the child gets a little undivided parental attention is nice. I think your attention to and appreciation of her and her thoughts and feelings is likely to be much more important to her then the inescapable fact of the family schedule being dominated by her sister's sport.
Running around for one kid more than the other is not an equation of importance unless you allow it. It's also up to you, the parent, to plan appropriately so that inconveniences caused by your gymnast's schedule are minimized. For instance, not letting your non-gymnast seeing the behind the scenes wrangling that may occur between you and your husband regarding rides to/from the gym. Making sure that you aren't talking about your gymnasts schedule or sport with your non-gymnast.
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I remember posting something similar and someone reminded me that equity is not equality. Even though we spend more on my one twin daughter's sport and travel, the other twin has equal opportunity to pursue things that interest her even if there is not equal travel and commitment involved. She seems to care less about it now. At the beginning, the amount of medals that my d would get bothered her because she does team sports. Now she is more envious of travel... so I'm taking it on to organize a travel tournament for her team sport. I also try to balance alone time. Since gymnast and I go to hotels for the night by ourselves, I'll organize a night away or fun day outing with the non- gymnast another time.
We never celebrate specific achievements with either of them besides a "great job! I love watching you do what you love." Meals out happen because it's meal time or if team members organize it.
Yes to equity is not equality.
We value each kiddo for who they are, what their interests are and where they are on that journey (at our stage this is more to do with age)
One kiddo gets to do ‘more’ in terms of activities because of their age. On the flip side younger kiddo gets more freedom and flexibility as they have less scheduled.
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I guess what I'm asking about is the more day-to-day. Even if we don't make a big deal of meets, we're still going to them. Even if we don't fuss about practice, our family schedule is heavily influenced by it, you know? How do we help her feel just as important when she simply doesn't require the same amount of running around?
This is such a tough one; totally understand. And there may not be a perfect solution as kids often do not understand the concept of equality vs. equity. But truly, your non-gymmie kiddo might not have any issues with things as they are, so perhaps confirm before making it a concern or trying to fix what is not broken? I wonder if by bringing it so much in the foreground, will that now create an issue for the gymnast child, thinking "well if I stop gym, I'll get to do A, B, and C with mom and dad too?"

To more directly answer your question though, I think what keeps us somewhat balanced is that (by default, not by design) we frequently switch who drops off/picks up which kid from their activities. That might not work with your schedules, but it seems to make it feel less like one kid dominates all the things. We do not stay to watch practices for either child; it is a drop-off and pick-up situation to minimize the impact on the family schedule. Yes, we have to leave in the middle of helping with homework, watching a show together, etc but we just don't make a thing of is just a simple "hold that thought - gotta run to pick up so-and-so. Be back soon." And then ensuring that we DO actually pick back up with the abandoned activity. Or we ask one kid to come for the ride to keep US company. And we use as many carpools as possible!

Also, as much as we both want to watch every event for both of our kids, we make the parental sacrifice to divide and conquer. If ODD is at a travel diving meet (these last for multiple days) or YDD is at a travel gym meet, we usually send one parent. The other stays home with the other child and has their own parent-kid fun time or just a regular old weekend at home.
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