We’ve all heard theories about birth order and how their place in the family line can play a role in our children’s personalities. I’m not usually one to subscribe to child-rearing theories, but I find this one compelling, because when it comes to birth order my 3 daughters appear to be textbook examples. They may all look alike, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end…
My first born is a rule follower, organized, bossy, a perfectionist. She has a strong sense of justice and stresses out when others break the rules. She’d like to think she’s the CEO of our family, and in all honesty, that’s not that far from the truth.
As an example, my girls recently decided that we were going to have a mommy/daughter slumber party. My oldest launches into a detailed schedule, list of rules, and a three-strikes-you’re-out discipline structure. I’m told that I need to show up to the sleepover location at precisely 6:25 pm, though I do have a 5 minute grace period. No earlier than 6:20, though, or I risk getting a ticket. (Not sure what a ‘ticket’ entails, but I’m sure it’s related to the three-strikes system and no one wants that business.) Her tone when describing the schedule and rules is perfectly pleasant, and I know she is in her element; she’s doing what makes her happy.
I’m tempted to remind her that she shouldn’t do this when she’s at a sleepover with friends, but I stop myself. There will be time for that later. Let the girl be herself. As a young child, her seriousness and rigidity stressed me out. But I have learned to accept her eccentricities. On the bright side, I know I’ll be taken care of when I’m old and incoherent and can’t be trusted to make decisions for myself.
And then there’s my middle one. We’re not sure what planet she lives on, but we know it’s a lovely one. Her mind is not filled with equations and rules; she’s too preoccupied by rainbows and puppies to bother with paying attention to, say, where she’s walking. We joke that we’ll need to send her to college with handlers just to make sure she survives. (This joke is usually followed by a Heavy Sigh.)
My middle child is a dreamer, a cuddler, a peacemaker. She wears her heart on her sleeve and describes things as “romantic”. She’s doesn’t pay too much attention to schedules – she means no harm, she’s just in no hurry and would rather enjoy life than plan it. We worry that she will be taken advantage of by boys or “frenemies” and we’re trying to toughen her up a bit. But just as with our oldest, her brain works the way it wants, and other than insisting she look both ways before she crosses the street there’s not much we can do to change her. This is the child who will make sure my outfit matches and I don’t have lipstick on my teeth when I’m too old to notice/care. God bless her.
And then there’s the youngest one. She’s the loudest, funniest, most temperamental of them all. She came into this world holding a top hat and cane, ready to wow her audience. She’s coy and flirty and tough and enjoys a good laugh. Her volume control seems to be stuck on high – she’s too busy trying to get everyone’s attention to bother with inside voices. She’s also a mix of her polar-opposite sisters – cuddly and savvy all at the same time, and we have no doubt she will get through life getting what she wants while also enjoying strong relationships with her family and friends.
Our youngest works the iPad and DVD player better than the rest of us. We’re pretty sure she doesn’t actually need us, but rather just allows us to live here. She’d be a great candidate to be our middle daughter’s College Handler. This is the kid who will crack dirty jokes with me and make sure my mini bar is always stocked at the old folk’s home. (On second thought, she might not be the best person to help our impressionable middle child get through college…)
It’s fascinating to watch our children grow and interact with each other and the world in their own unique ways. Together they make a unit, each bringing something distinctive and valuable to the group. How the same parents can make such different people is a complete and wonderful mystery, and that is just fine by me.