Thursday, January 25, 2007

Birth order

Almost everything I hear about birth order rings true to me.

Having only two children, and being from a family with just two children, I don't have much to report about middle children. However, the more I read about the traits of eldest children and youngest children, the more I see myself and my brother, and, even more so, my daughter (eldest) and my son (youngest).

When Susie was a baby, only six months old, someone told me that I didn't have a baby, I had a robot. While that was a bit of an overstatement, I must admit that she was an amazingly easy, "good" baby. She cried little, smiled much, hit her milestones at precisely the appointed time, and had 100 words before she was eighteen months old.

As she's grown, she continues to be "good". And maybe a bit driven sometimes. She gets great report cards. Her teachers think she's "a delight to teach". She was tapped to be in the All-City Chorus - the only fourth grader to be selected from her school. And last week her piano teacher picked her to participate in the All-City piano recital, adding another hour per week of lessons to focus on one piece. Our phone rings at least once a night for her....generally another kid in class needing help with homework. Last night, she told us that anytime she doesn't make an A on a test (the teacher announces the A's), the rest of the class looks at her and makes amazed noises. She gets stressed about school.

Eldest children are reputed to be adult-pleasers, perfectionists, achievers, conformists. Youngest children are said to be the entertainers, the charmers, the rebels.

And Alex is charming. And definitely has a different perspective than his sister. He'll try anything once. Any strange food, any activity. He's funny as can be - making crazy faces or dances, singing silly songs of his own invention. But there's a bit of a dark side to that. He's fussy and difficult and sometimes doesn't know when his joke isn't funny. He teases his sister too much sometimes.

He's a quiet kid at school, which means his wacky sense of humor is easily missed by the adults. He also enjoys classwork (seriously), which makes him a "pleasure to have in class." His teacher this year seems to have a better understanding of him; she commented to me the other day that he's really a funny kid. I was delighted that she noticed, as the teacher last year never did seem to get inside his head.

As a baby, Alex was much more intense than his sister. His highs were higher, and his lows were much lower. Did he have colic? I still don't know for sure, but he definitely did a lot more crying than his sister. He smiled earlier, talked earlier, potty trained earlier, refused solid food for what seemed forever, and nursed longer. He loved to be held in a sling (Susie didn't ever take to it). His first laugh was so different from hers. Susie had a sweet, musical laugh (she still does). When he first laughed (in the car, at his sister who kept saying "PBJ Otter!"), we honestly thought he was choking. It was a wheezy, bizarre laugh that consumed his entire body. He has a lot of different laughs now, some of them quite forced-sounding, like machine gun fire.

Craig and I are both the eldest in our families, and we generally relate to the characteristics of eldest children (but not entirely). We live a fairly conventional life, albeit with quirks. I'm definitely a "pleaser" (sometimes too much, Craig would say), and we were both good students who attended a good college. We've also found, to some amount of surprise, that almost all our close friends are also the eldest children in their families. Craig's mother is also an eldest. My parents, however, are both second-born, my mother of two and father of three. Growing up, I felt like my father probably had the easiest time relating to both me and my brother, since he had grown up with an older sister AND a younger brother, so he knew what each of us was going through.

My brother, however, was much better at physical tasks than I was. I was dismally bad at ballet and tap and still am a pretty horrible dancer. I remember my brother would build models that required a great deal of fine motor control. (EDIT: he says his models mostly sucked. I say that's not the point - the point is he had the patience and the fine motor skills to make them at all.) He also ran cross-country, earning team MVP his Freshman year of high school. (EDIT: It was his Junior year, and he was also team captain and more.) Academically, we both coasted a bit more than we should have, but I was more of a conventionally successful student, getting a degree and most of a graduate degree. My brother never did finish college, but has forged his own path in a fairly new field (digital imaging). He's definitely more of a rebel than I will ever be. (EDIT: did you notice that he totally didn't argue with me on that one?)

So if the studies I've seen are correct, Susie will go on to lead a fairly conventional life. She'll do well, even very well. She'll have a house and a dog and a cat and 1.8 children and she'll probably be the president of the PTA and have a great job. Alex, however, might live up to the shirt I gave him for Christmas and do something entirely different. With cool hair.


guess who said...

Nope, I wasn't mvp freshman year. That was junior, when I was also team captain, city champion, and a top MSA athlete. Not that any of that was difficult in our school/league.

And I generally sucked at the models. I only really finished 2 that were worthwhile.

But I'm really good with fiddling small screws on laptops now.

furrjenn said...

BTW, Hello brother of Kaleigh up there...

I dont take birth order very seriously. As you know I'm a crap perfactionist, and people pleaser? No, not so much. My Little sis doesn't fit the profile either. I'm old school: it's all about how your parents screwed you up.

I suppose you could argue I live a conventional SAHM life, but that would just encourage me to talk about how cool our new minivan is. Dude, I can't help it if I bred with a man who is willing to support my Target habit.