A Tale of Two Talents

My husband and I have two very gifted young daughters.  Each is talented in her own way; however, one always seems to be able to do sports and activities way better than the other.  Our oldest daughter is certainly the brains of the family, and she tries her hardest and best at everything she endeavors.  However, our youngest daughter is no intellectual slacker, plus, she is great at everything she does.  It is frustrating as a parent to endure this, because it is difficult to explain to the child who tries so hard but just doesn’t quite make it as far as her sibling.

My greatest example involves the sport of swimming.  My oldest really wanted to try the sport of swimming, and at the time, my youngest did not have much interest.  Now, my oldest only became interested at the age of 9, so she missed the time where you only had to swim the length of the pool once.  She was thrown right into 50 yard swims with all strokes.  Well, after watching her older sister at a few practices, the younger daughter decided she too wanted to swim.  Guess what?  She jumps in the water and swims like a pro.

We’ve been involved in swimming now for three seasons, and our youngest has many advantages.  Because she has a July birthday, she is able to swim at the younger age level all year, winter and summer.  Our oldest has a winter birthday and has already had to move to the next level.  At her level, there is tough competition, so it is difficult for her to break into heat 1, the only heat that is able to place, score, or earn any ribbons or medals.  Our youngest is in a close race for being the top swimmer in her age category.  Many of the outstanding girl swimmers from her last year’s group have now moved into her sister’s group.  So while we have tried to explain this to both girls, it is still difficult to watch out oldest receive “Participant” ribbons while our youngest is earning blue ribbons and medals.  Additionally, our youngest makes it to the finals each year.  Last year, our oldest made it as an alternate with a relay team, but because no one scratched, she was not able to swim.  She had to be there, but she could not swim.  The youngest and her relay team took 6th place and earned a medal.  So, while winning is not everything, when you have two children competing in the same sport, it is tough to handle the concept.

Last week our youngest was entered into the 50 yard freestyle event.  In the summer, 8-year-olds do not swim this event, but in the winter they do.  Because our daughter is a more seasoned swimmer, she has to swim this event due to its length.  Last week, when she found out she was in the 50, she came up to me pouting.  Well, she won the event.  Hence, the pouting won’t take place again.  In fact, she now wants to swim that event again.  To make matters worse, she even beat her older sister’s time by one second!  Our oldest last week met with a snafu, one that left her feeling quite down.

A mistake was made last swim meet, and our oldest was put into the first heat of the breast stroke.  Now, the 50-yard-breast stroke is her absolute best event, so at first, my husband and I thought, “Great, she earned a spot.”  She legitimately won 4th place, scoring two points for her team.  She was so pumped to finally contribute to the team.  However, her spirits were dashed when we learned that she was mistakenly placed into the first heat.  She was supposed to be in the second heat; thus, she had to give up 4th place, or the team would have been penalized.  The worst part:  She REALLY did beat the girl who was supposed to be there.  It was so heartbreaking for her and for my husband and myself.  She finally earns a place, finally scores points for the team, and because of a mistake, none of it counts.

The bright spot in all of this centers around time.  Our oldest really did swim a great breast stroke time, and we told her that she did prove herself to her coaches.  So, we are hoping that the next meet she is given another shot to prove herself again.  It is so difficult as a parent having two children with different levels of talent.  Both girls are intellectually gifted; the older one is definitely more intellectual.  However, the younger is far more creative.  Both girls play musical instruments, and both are part of many activities.  So, we try time and again to point out all of their great achievements–academically, athletically, creatively; but, at times, it is a struggle.

As parents, you want ALL of your children to experience success.  While winning isn’t everything, it is nice once in a while; especially when one child experiences so much athletic success.  The older one, though she has received many academic awards, fails to see that when it comes to swimming and comparing herself to her sister.  Are they both gifted and talented?  Absolutely.  Are my husband and I blessed with them?  No doubt about it.  But, at times, we do feel perplexed when it comes to explaining the difference in talent and ability.  My husband and I always say:  Parenting is the most difficult job we have ever encountered.

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