My daughter is a rock star. That is to say, take away the wealth, the fame and the trips into and out of rehab, and whatever it is that makes someone a rock star, she has it.

The “new girl” in school doesn’t typically have an easy time making a friend and fitting in, but when Diva started a new school mid-year, the girls (and boys) began competing for her friendship. She’s not popular; rather – and we make much if this distinction at home – she is well-liked. She’s funny and fashionable, she likes everyone by default, and she’s kind. Ask her “which one is Sandy?” and she never says “the fat one” or “the one who’s already getting acne,” she says warmly, “she’s the one with the really pretty reddish hair who wears the cute sweaters”. I mean, she’d be fairly difficult for any kid not to like.

Except, that is, the shy, nerdy brother of such a girl, in which case, it’s pretty much preordained that he’s going to hate her guts.  Wild child and the Diva have rarely resorted to actual hitting, but shrieking and name-calling form the background music of our home with “JERK!” and “IDIOT!” followed with infuriating regularity by “IMA!”

The rivalry is intensified by the fact that he is the older brother. With motives both generous and vainglorious, my son had looked forward to being little sister’s guide through school and life. Like an advance scout, he would blaze the trail and point out where water could be found and she, in turn, would look up to him. Instead, he’s found it necessary to consult her on everything from body sprays, to texting etiquette, to how to dress and wear his hair. His humiliation is complete now that, in physical terms at least, it is necessary for him to look up to her.

Girls can be relied upon to shoot up and start breaking out in curves a good two years before the boys see any changes in themselves…and at least one year before they notice any in the girls. Many of Wild child’s friends are sporting hairier legs, but not all. Some of their voices have begun the descent into a more manly timbre and others still sound like Justin Bieber. His best buds tower over him – watch them coming at you down the block and they call to mind Kermit the frog with bodyguards. I’ve pointed out to him that at his very age, my brother began the school year at 5’2″ and ended it at 6’1″ – the same age, not coincidentally, when I had to stop punching him as a negotiating tool.

We reckoned that his entry into middle school might lessen their rivalry a bit as it would at least having them spending their days apart, but we were genuinely afraid it might just eat him alive. Middle school might as well have been hell for me and…well, everyone I know, but it has been surprisingly kind to him. Moving from classroom to classroom gives his fidgets a little workout. A larger student population has meant a larger pool of nerdy and/or ADHD boys that can relate to him so he’s made friends. The net result has been a somewhat calmer and more confident kid. On one particularly good day, he learned both that he’d gotten a part he really wanted and his grades came back – all As. He smiled broadly as he settled himself into the car seat and said, “Hey Ima, I think maybe my awesomeness is finally kicking in.”