I married another 'youngest/third born' and we were never going to be happy with just two kids. If our parents had have thought like that, neither of us would have been here. We were going for three. We owed it to ourselves. The fact that we ended up with four children is a whole different story.
I've noticed lately that there is a theme amongst my children and those of my friend's. Look, I know Alfred Adler got there way before me, but I do think there is something in the the whole Birth Order theory.
The traditionalists would say that there are 3 (or 4) types of birth-order personalities. Usually the 'eldest/first born' is described as a leader and a high achiever (there are other, less flattering terms but I will leave them for now). The 'second born/middle child' tends to be a good listener and negotiator. The third born are the family entertainers and risk takers. The 'Only child', the fourth category, tend to be uber-firsts (just add "very" to typical descriptions of first-borns and you get the picture).
There is so much information out there about this theory and how it defines families and people. It isn't always about order per se, but the child's function in the family (so if the oldest child doesn't play their part for one reason or another, the next might step into their place and take on the traits of a 'first born'). Obviously there are other influential factors that change the 'typical' picture. Things like:
- having a particularly critical parent (might make the eager to please first child into a rebel who doesn't want to do anything) or
- gender (where a second born who is the opposite sex of their first born may also act as a leader) or
- as is the case in my own family, a large age gap (where the child 'on the end' may be more like an 'only child' than a third or second born, leaving it open for the third born to still be the 'baby' of the family although she clearly is not. Just saying.), or
- coming from a large family, (where due to depleted parental resources, birth order personalities can become mixed-up).
When I think about Nugget, he is many of the things a first born typically is, but he is mostly about the 'afraid of new things'. His younger, more social and braver brother, Doo Dah, approaches new situations with enthusiasm. Apparently unaware of the potential challenges of entering a room full of people, having others look at you, introducing yourself to new people or understanding the subtleties of the situation. He just goes in and makes himself at home.
Nugget, on the other hand, waits in the wings. He observes, he analyses, he dips his toe in and, eventually he gets right in there. Once he has deemed it safe. He rarely makes a social error (unlike Doo Dah) and seems to make friends easily. Kids like him.
At first I found this extremely hard. I am a group person. I love to entertain and, well, Nugget cramped my style a bit, while he was hanging off my leg, hiding under my skirt. I didn't really understand why he needed to hide and look before he revealed all his gorgeousness. Over time I have come to accept it. It is not so bad. I could probably learn a thing or two from him in actual fact (says the queen of foot-in-mouth-especially-after-a-couple-of-drinks).
When I was discussing this with some friends recently, they too found the same thing with their 'first borns'. 'Second borns' seemed to be more laid back than their earlier siblings and first borns seemed so uptight. And anxious. They are the ones with nightmares and 'tics' and stutters and sleeping issues and anal tendencies. Poor ol' first borns, the parenting guinea pigs, seem to worry about pleasing people.
I am certainly no expert on this topic. Just thinking aloud really.
What are your thoughts and experiences on birth order? Does it matter really?
Photo credit: http://img.timeinc.net/time/daily/2007/0710/a_wbirth_1029.jpg