Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Birth Order and Middle Children

 Alienor said to me yesterday morning; "Aragorn and I are a lot alike. It's like two pairs, because Lily and Arthur are alike too." She then went on to explain all the ways that she and her brother were alike, as well as something she couldn't quite put her finger on. The amazing thing is: her father and I both agree on this, we don't talk about it in front of the children, but there is a certain truth in it. This is not the first insightful thing this child has said. She would set up mini-fights with her dolls when she was little, that ended in "too much yelling" and people being thrown out of the doll house. Ouch. Or dolls being lovingly soothed back to a peaceful state on other days.

I once attended a talk on birth order as connected to careers and personalities of children. I found it fascinating, but took it with a grain of salt. Each of my children is precious and loved, for their very own self, without qualifications.
Besides, people cannot just be categorized that easily, we're too unpredictable, aren't we? Just how far can birth order determine our personality and destiny?

I do think back to that talk sometimes, and find myself rationalizing one child's behavior based on their place in the family, especially anyone who is not the eldest. I was the eldest child, I know all about that burden! I also am the first child of two eldest who are each the off-spring of eldest children, well, my grandmother was an only...and I know my great-grandmother was the first of 7. We'll stop there.  It's not an easy role and it often feels as though the weight of world is waiting for you to pick it up and take care of it. 

It's the second and thirds that make me wonder. My own youngest are too young to tell yet. What must my sister have suffered, coming after me? Or did she? She was the easy baby, the happy child, I think my parents always had more fun with her, I was expected to perform well, and I did, but we're getting off-topic again. Aragorn and Arthur are technically middle children too, but my third, Alienor, seems to embody all that I've heard a third and middle should and will be. She is very sensitive. Arguments or perceived criticisms from her siblings affect her strongly. Third children, make up the better part of the pastoral and counseling professions. They inherently understand those around them, and as they are surrounded, they feel the need to make peace among those who surround them. They're good at it too. They are also more interested religion, ask your spiritual guide which child they were. Alienor is the only one who has never asked to skip Sunday school or church in any form. As the "middle of the middle" children, she has other pressures that I probably will never fully comprehend. She can't get away with acting like a baby, yet the older and the younger ones can torment her in special ways because she is either too young or too old for certain things. No fair!

Aragorn, at the high end of the middle, is often able to intervene and help me understand how to make life better for his younger sister. Arthur, on the low end, got over no longer being the baby of the family remarkably well, while Lily, the eldest, just about lost it when she heard there was going to be yet another addition. The older ones often feel the weight of responsibility more fully. And the babies...well mine is milking it for all it is worth.

How do others find that birth order affects the family dynamics? Is your oldest destined to succeed in their studies and their careers because that's the way they were brought up, despite your best intentions not to be overbearing and over controlling with them? Is the second one truly the one who is most influenced by peers as well as the rebel, set to radically change the world because he or she is free from the expectations we place on the first to follow a conventional path? How about the fourth or fifth child, when he or she is not the baby? What is in store for me in the coming years?

1 comment:

  1. Have your read Brothers and Sisters by Karl König? It mentions that child 1 is similar to child 4, child 2 is similar to child 5, and child 3 is similar to child 6. It's a really interesting book. I do think that there is something to the birth order idea, but many things also depend on upbringing, gender, culture, etc.


Thank you for stopping by. I am always happy to hear from you! Please leave a comment and let me know how you feel about a post or add advice, anecdotes, etc. of your own.