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In the shadow: What life is like having a famous sibling

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One night several years ago, Lisa Clark got a call from her brother James Valentine. As the lead guitarist for Maroon 5, James was standing under the bright lights and public eye of the Grammy Awards ceremony, and he wanted to share it with his big sister.

Meanwhile, Lisa, with her shoulder pushing the phone to her ear, was crouched down on her knees scrubbing one of her five children's vomit off of her living room floor.

"Our lives could not be more different," Clark, 40, said of her brother. She laughed about it then, and she laughs about it now. Having a world-recognized rock star for a brother has its share of benefits — and difficulties.

Though the lives of famous people plaster the covers of tabloids, blogs and websites, their less-famous siblings often remain in the shadows of near obscurity. In some families, this may cause even more contention than the typical sibling relationship.

"Sibling rivalry," as most experts call it, begins early. A 2005 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study revealed that on average, siblings ages 3 to 7 engage in some sort of conflict almost four times per hour. Though that number tends to decrease as siblings age, feelings of resentment and jealousy may linger in a sibling relationship for years.

Sylvia Rimm, psychologist, author and director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, knows what it takes to push siblings away from rivalry and pull them toward a healthy relationship.

"What we try to do with siblings is get them to cheer for each other, even though it’s understandable to feel jealous. You can make it happen — but it is a tricky business."

And that tricky business typically involves more than just keeping siblings from getting at each other's throats.

'Funny jealousies'

Children with siblings are often looking for parental and other attention. When one sibling is getting more attention than another, especially when it comes to some sort of achievement, it can breed resentment, Rimm said.

"It's darn hard to keep a family of kids achieving. It's not at all unusual for one sibling to be a high achiever and one to be an underachiever," she said.

With the riches and notoriety that accompany fame, a sibling's feelings of underachievement, jealousy and being passed over could be even more stark than in the average American home, Rimm said.

"Once a person has established themselves as very successful, either a sibling is tired of hearing how successful sister or brother is, or they might be basking in the glory of it and enjoying the vicarious success," Rimm said.

Having not only James as a famous sibling, but also her sister Amanda Holland — a Nashville-based clothing designer and wardrobe stylist made famous by Project Runway and guest-starring in the hit show "Nashville" — Clark said she leans toward the "enjoying the vicarious success" side of the scale.

She loves talking about her very creative and very successful siblings. So much, in fact, she worries sometimes it's too much for people. Clark occasionally finds herself holding back, not wanting to come off as boastful when her brother's guitar is heard behind Adam Levine's voice over grocery store loudspeakers.

"I have to tell myself not to tell (everyone) that they’re my sibling, I don’t want to be obnoxious about it — but I’m really proud of them," she said.

Clark did admit to feeling jealous of her siblings' fame — but not in the way one might think.

"I'm not jealous of James' fame and fortune. I'm jealous that he has a personal assistant or that he gets free stuff," Clark said as she laughed. "I want to get free stuff. He doesn't need free stuff — I'm the one who needs free stuff."

When you're Young

Sherry Young, mother of Hall of Fame professional quarterback Steve Young, described her daughter Melissa's feelings in a little different way.

One day at Brigham Young University, a student peer walked up to Melissa Young and said, "Did you hear about Steve Young's sister?" before telling her a strange and completely untrue story about herself. Melissa realized she didn't want to be known as Steve Young's sister. She wanted to be known as herself.

"It made her a little introverted for a while," Young said.

Steve Young's brothers Mike, Tom and Jim experienced similar feelings to Melissa. Each of the Young sons were all-state football players at their Connecticut high school — Mike and Tom as quarterbacks and Jim as a linebacker.

"(Steve, Mike and Tom) were very good QBs," Sherry Young said. "Steve was an eighth-string quarterback and it was a miracle that he got where he was. It was hard on Mike and Tom not to succeed like Steve did, but now they're very happy with their life."

Catching fame

During this year's World Series, Samantha Posey, sister of the starting catcher for the San Francisco Giants, Buster Posey, was living deep in enemy territory: Kansas, home of the Kansas City Royals.

"(During the World Series) people started putting two and two together, since my brother and I look alike and my last name is Posey," she said.

"They'd ask, 'Hey are you (and Buster Posey) related?' and when I'd say 'yes,' they'd say, 'What? No way! I thought you were going to say "No, I get that all the time.” ’ ”

Upon discovering the connection, Posey said some Royals fans asked a wide range of baseball questions: What's going through Buster's mind right now? What strategies did the Giants have for the next World Series game? What did Buster think about an opposing pitcher?

"A lot of times I don't have an answer for questions like that, because I don't bug Buster about those kinds of things," she said. As a former collegiate softball player, Posey is well aware of the type of questions that are more of a distraction for an athlete than an innocent query. Posey doesn't take advantage of her closeness to Buster to get insider baseball information.

Mostly, she just feels proud to be his sister.

"It's unreal to see what he's doing and be able to say, 'That's my brother.' I'm so proud of him. Buster is blessed. He got God's talent," Samantha said.

The parent's part

From a parental perspective, the idea of making sure kids love and respect each other and have a healthy sense of achievement can be a fight all its own.

According to Rimm, for parents of more than one child, navigating sibling rivalry takes planning. One of the most important things parents can do is not use labels.

"It’s very important not to label your children," Rimm said. "We want to encourage individual differences. … But families often say, ‘she is my academic kid.’ Or ‘she’s not as smart, but she works hard and is successful.’ … by doing that, (parents) set up more competition because one kid labeled as 'the academic one' thinks they can’t be creative, and 'the creative one' thinks they can’t be academic."

As the mother of five kids, ages 6 to 16, Lisa Clark also has a plan for teaching her kids about ambition and competition.

"I want my kids to be each other’s greatest champions. … Someone else's success doesn’t take away from your success, it only adds to it. Rivalry is a wasted opportunity, when you could be each other’s champions," she said.

According to Rimm, two important lessons to teach kids is how to collaborate and how to win and lose.

"If a mother or father gets two of their kids to plan a surprise for the other parent, that gets kids working collaboratively, or setting a goal to work together as a family, they really help each other, that helps the rivalry situation."

For both the Posey and Young families, no member is estranged, and underachievement simply isn't a part of the culture. Samantha Posey lives in Kansas, works in sales and is engaged to be married. All of Steve Young's brothers, Mike, Tom and Jim, are doctors. Melissa was an executive at NuSkin and today is a stay-at-home mom.

Though less well-known than her siblings, Clark is happy with her own successes. She wrote, produced and acted in a Web series called "Pretty Darn Funny," produced a film called "Girl's Camp," that is in the editing stages right now, and has written a book that will be coming out next year.

With her own achievements, it's hard to feel jealous of her siblings' fame, she said. Rather, it's taught her and her family a very important lesson.

"It’s taught us a lot about fame. It could all go away tomorrow. We know that and (James and Amanda) know that. The celebrity stuff is fun, but it’s not a real thing," Clark said.

Email: nsorensen@deseretnews.com

Twitter: sorensenate

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