Friday, November 12, 2010

Order Up!

So Tuesday night, Teacher gave an overview of birth order personalities as written in a book by Dr. Leman.

I’d heard Dr. Leman on several “Focus on the Family” broadcasts. He’s a humorous speaker and sounds to be quite a knowledgeable person on child-rearing.

The basic characteristics [as I can remember them and with help from a Suite101 review] go like this:

Firstborns are the natural leaders, often achievers, organized, detail-oriented, with high expectations. “They’re reliable, conscientious, list makers. They don’t like surprises.”

The youngest are the babies. They are charming, risk-takers, open to change, and manipulative. They tend to make good entertainers.

Middle children are secretive, loyal, and people-oriented. “Second born are almost always the opposite of what’s above them in the family.” They are the entrepreneurs [I suppose partly because they have to make their own role in the family?].

Only children are exaggerated firstborns. “Only children are often sensitive and their feelings are easily hurt.”


I think Dr. Leman does well to include that other factors may affect one’s personality to function as another, factors like the age gap between siblings, gender, or situational things.

I remember hearing a broadcast of Lucy Swindoll talking about her family. In describing her younger brother, Chuck, she said he was unsure of himself and stuttered, thinking that he was born into a completed family: a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, and then Chuck, the baby. And it seems that Chuck himself has affirmed that notion, in mentioning that his grandparents had a lot to do with nurturing him as his siblings took up much of their parents’ attentions [not with a bitter sense, but in gratitude that there was someone for him]. And so the Swindolls’ are an illustration of gender causing the baby to function like a middle child instead because he was the second son, all of them born close together in years.

I’m the baby of my family, but I’ve often joked that I have middle-child syndrome. I think there’s at least a little truth in it. I don’t think I really got the attention that is generally associated as being given to the baby.

I am a strong-willed child with parents who weren’t ones to indulge me. If I didn’t finish my dinner, I went to bed early. If I wanted something, like a My Little Pony or Transformer, and if my dad could afford it, I had to calculate the tax for it. If I continued to insist on not cleaning up my room, my mom let it go until she personally couldn’t stand it anymore and then cleaned it herself, but I would be disciplined some other way; in other words, Mom was in no way my maid. I didn’t “get away with everything,” as is the sense of youngest children. Actually, I have the sense that I got away with nothing!
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Also on Tuesday, we did “Family Sculptures.” We thought of when we were 10, an incident or metaphorical illustration, and how we perceived our family through the incident or time. Using each other, we posed people as ourselves with our family when we were 10.

I don’t remember much about when I was 10 [fifth grade], except that I went into _____ and I was not going to share about that! It’s my normal to have difficulty thinking of specific incidents in my life; even of my own life I have often felt the observer rather than the star, the one experiencing the thing.

I remember essences, like in the memory of moving during the summer after third grade, I don’t remember feeling one way or another about it. One would expect a child to feel anger for moving away from friends and familiarity, anxiety about making new friends in a new environment, either acting out in misbehavior or becoming a people-pleaser, or possibly feeling the excitement of new opportunities. I had none of that, from what I remember of it now. An awareness of my own emotions has only begun recently yet mostly I’m detached from them.

For my sculpture, I couldn’t think of anything specific, just the general function of my family. I had Reader as Brother, standing in front with his arms up in victorious celebration [or so I had thought it to be expressed in my mind]. Squeaker and Alpha were in place of my parents, behind Reader with a hand on his back in support. Then Fist stood as me, off to the side and behind.

The picture of my family for years has been this, tagging along as my parents took Brother here and there in support of his endeavors. Brother had Karate class, basketball team [that Dad coached a few years], soccer, Cub and then Boy Scouts, etc., and he performed well in them all. He is intelligent, athletic, well-behaved, well-liked. Brother is very much a firstborn.

Being taken to all of Brother’s events, I either watched him perform or I was off to the side, on my own. Mom and Dad made sure to know where I was, in security, but I was allowed to entertain myself. Oh, if I had had my own camara back then! I remember being at church while Mom, Dad and Brother were at Boy Scouts meetings; I would often go to the top of Building A stairs and read or write or enter into my mind’s play. I would climb around in the old playground.

At the Eagle ceremony for Brother, Mrs. H said a few words. I was watching from the audience as Mom and Dad stood proudly by Brother. I heard my name and perked up to attention. In her speech, Mrs. H thanked me for being so behaved while Mom and Dad attended to Brother at the BSA meetings. I had the idea that I had been invisible at those times so it was curious that someone recognized me.
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Anyways, after explaining my sculpture, Teacher asked a question. I don’t remember the actual question but I think it had to do with whether or not I thought that Brother was favored [?]. My answer is that I figure that Brother did more things. It was kind of my position to follow along and then once there, do my own thing. So I don’t really feel one way or another about it. So, to really answer the question, yes and no.

Though thinking about it, maybe it adds something to my sense of being a middle-child, like Brother got all the attention deserving of a firstborn and a family baby, maybe? Sort of, because Brother was good at all these things and was an obedient son at home, he had our parents’ admiration and the adoration. [Brother and I have three years difference.]

Still, every so often I ask Mom or Dad if there was something to explain the middle-child sense, like a miscarriage or a stillborn twin or something. They deny it all.

As pets go, I have felt the middle-child to the cats, and now more so to Mom’s dog. Fish were not a problem. [And, my middle cat is my favorite because I’m fighting off middle-cat syndrome for her! ; ) ]

I suppose I am a last born with a few middle child tendencies, that of being very secretive and having to make my own role in the family. Even though I am able to entertain myself, I resent when it seems I am around for the mere entertainment of others. Maybe my maverick-ness adds to it. Or that firstborn Mom often acts last born while last born son Dad acts like a firstborn. Yup, my family is all kinds of confused! [Also, the dog thinks he’s a cat.]

Well, I should say clearly that I did get enough love from my parents and Brother excelled even at being the older brother. Even today, Brother is protective and providing and all that good stuff. He so could've easily messed with me but he didn't.
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I find all this fascinating. I have often wondered things like how it was, for instance, for one to have an older sibling, be the baby for a while, and then become the middle child. Or identical twins, ‘cuz even they have the sense of being the older or the younger.

I don’t know. Umm… the end.