Our two older grandsons begin school this morning. For one, it is a return to the same school he attended last year, now a sophomore therefore much wiser. For the other, it is his first day of high school, luckily with some friends he made last year in middle school, but still a new experience - and he has to deal with the inevitable question from students and teachers: "Are you Alex's brother?"
I remember this social pattern from the times when our daughter (Alex's mom) and her brother were in the same position. They were 3-1/2 years apart in age, so they were separated by a larger grade difference, but the question was always there for our son. At times he didn't mind the comparison but, on occasion, he resented it, especially when it was a teacher who was asking.
The ramifications from such an innocent inquiry can range from teasing by a classmate to an unfair parallel being made about personality and intellectual acumen. I don't remember any serious problems occurring because of it, but I do think it makes for one more adjustment in an already crowded social agenda.
Being an only child, I never had to deal with the question when I was in school. But, it seems to me that a better way of getting to know someone in that "sibling situation" would be to say, "It's great to meet you. Do you have any brothers or sisters who go to this school?" That way, the new student has a chance to present himself and his sibling in a manner that makes him the topic of conversation rather than an addendum to someone else's personality.
Keep in mind, this is just a personal quirk of mine, and I hope I don't make too much of it. I just feel that, in today's chaotic and complicated world, an adolescent doesn't need to worry about whether he measures up to what people expect of him before they even know him as an individual.
Your thoughts on the subject? I'd love to hear them, including your own personal experiences.