Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Effects of Birth Order: Fact or Theory

**Here is something I wrote that was posted on a blog for local NC Triad Moms.  Their website is a great resource for all moms.  Check it out at www.triadmomsonmain.com!

I come from a small family – just my parents, my older brother, and me.  My husband, however, is the oldest of five siblings.  I used to be very intrigued by the fact that all five of them – 4 boys, 1 girl spanning fifteen years – were so incredibly different from each of the others in both personality and lifestyle. 

That has changed now that I have three children of my own.  My three – all girls – each have very different personalities.  I find this fascinating and somewhat perplexing.  After all, they have all been raised in the same environments and by the same parents; with the same rules, morals, and advantages.

Some psychologists would attribute these differences, or at least some of them, to birth order.  I, like you, have heard bits and pieces of these birth order theories, but recently decided to look a little deeper.  Here’s what I found.

The theories attributing certain personality traits to birth order were initiated in the 1920s by an Austrian psychologist named Alfred Adler.  Since then, several others have researched and expanded upon the theories.  There are also plenty of scientists and psychologists who believe that birth order has little or nothing to do with innate personality traits.  For those who do believe, here is a brief summary.

 First Born Children

For a time, these children are the only child in the family; they do not have to “work” to receive attention.  However, they are then “de-throned” by the next child who comes along.  They do what it takes to please their parents after that in an attempt to regain their prior status.  Some typical characteristics of first-borns include natural leadership abilities, reliability, conscientiousness, and ambition.  They are often perfectionists.  They do not like surprises or changes and they have a strong need for approval.  Here’s an interesting factoid:  Over half of all U.S. Presidents were first-born children!

Middle Children

Middle children are not the oldest or the youngest – they are literally “caught in the middle.”  Quite often, these children are directly opposite of their older siblings, but this can manifest in different ways.  To gain attention, middle children learn to be very intuitive, adaptable, and creative.  Because they have no “special” place in the nuclear family, their peer relationships can be very important.  They can also be secretive, keeping their feelings and emotions hidden.  Middle children are usually good peacemakers because they can see all sides of a situation.  One researcher said, “If the First born is the CEO, the middle child is the entrepreneur.”

Youngest Children

These children are the babies!  They are often doted on and even spoiled.  They tend to be very social, outgoing, and entertaining.  They love the limelight and, therefore, can be manipulative or risk-takers.  Some examples of youngest children:  Jim Carrey, Steve Martin, Drew Carey, Billy Crystal.  Enough said!

There are, of course, some variables in these theories.  A large age difference can throw off the usual traits and lead to more crossover of characteristics.  Gender also plays a role.  For example, if the first born is a girl and the second a boy, the boy is likely to show some first born characteristics since he is the first male.  Children with disabilities also change the typical birth order rules because they usually require extra attention regardless of their place in the sequence.  Sibling death, adoptions, and blended families can also throw a wrench into the usual regimen.

So what do we parents do with all this information??    Well, some give these parenting tips based on the birth order information. 
·         With first-born children¸ do not pressure them to improve; they already feel pressure to be perfect.  Also, be careful about piling on too many responsibilities.
·         With middle children, empower them by letting them make decisions within the family sometimes; find ways to make them feel they have a special place in the family.  Take time to listen to them since they tend to keep feelings concealed.
·         With the youngest children, be careful not to “loosen” the rules for the baby and be sure to give them some responsibility, too.

Now that I have reviewed all this information, I can definitely see some of these traits in my children.  My oldest is most certainly an ambitious perfectionist.  My middle is absolutely creative and imaginative.  My youngest is only three, but already has a very witty sense of humor and truly enjoys those rare moments when she is the only child present to command attention.  But, who am I to say those traits wouldn’t be present even if their birth order was different???

So what do you think??  Do you see these character and personality traits in your children??  In your spouse???  In yourself??? 

The birth order theories may give us some insight into the reasons behind the differences among siblings.  In the end, however, does it really matter?  Our children are who they are.  They have personalities and temperaments all their own.  They each have strengths and weaknesses; good traits and not so good traits.   They are each an integral part of their family no matter whether they are the first, last, or only child.  As parents, we have to respect them as individuals and be considerate of their different styles, emotions, and abilities no matter what the underlying reason may be. 

Fact or theory: who can say for sure??  All I know is I love my girls for who they are and I wouldn’t change them for the world! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Silly Picture

This is the picture that was on our family's 2010 Christmas card - the one we sent to LOTS of people.

I had been trying to get a photo for about twenty minutes and everyone was getting frustrated.  Finally, just to break the tension, I told the girls to all make super silly faces.  This is the result.  It turned out to be the best picture of the bunch!

However, it was difficult for me to think about putting it on our Christmas card.  You see, I am pretty conservative (those who know me, stop chuckling!) and this picture just didn't seem reverent enough.  I kept looking at it, though, and every time I felt a smile come across my face.  I knew that's what I wanted our card to do for everyone who received it - to make them smile; to bring them joy.  So, we used  the picture (with a caption of "Wishing you Love and Laughter this Holiday Season) and got lots of comments from people who loved it.  I guess sometimes laughter is the best medicine!

  If you didn't receive one of our cards, here it is - our three angels and all their silliness.  I hope it brings you a smile and reminds all of us to lighten up once in a while! 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Family Table

They say the kitchen is the heart of the home.  That is definitely true at my house - both literally and figuratively.  My kitchen is architecturally in the center of my house.  It is also where we spend the most time together as a family.

Family meal time is a very important part of our daily routine.  We sit down to a meal together every night.  Often, I cook.  However, sometimes we order pizza, go to a restaurant, or eat canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, but we sit together and eat.  We talk about our day, world happenings, religion, and upcoming events.  Even when my husband travels out of town for his job, I sit down at the table with my girls.

Some evenings, it doesn't go so well.  The kids argue; drinks get spilled; I try a new recipe that nobody likes. But, we always make the effort - we always try.

Family meals are a tradition that my husband and I both grew up with and one that is still important to our extended families as well.  It's how we celebrate holidays, birthdays, and family reunions - around the table together sharing a meal.

I know sharing family meals will get harder as my girls get older and we all get busier, but I will always try to make it happen.  I am so thankful that our parents always put forth the effort and gave us this tradition.  I certainly hope my girls will pass it on to their future families as well.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Baby Books

I am one of the few moms I know who has actually kept a baby book for all three of my daughters. I admit there are some things missing from each book - and definitely more missing from the second and third. However, all the basics are there; exact time of birth, weight, first words, first steps, first teeth, etc.

Baby books stop at five years of age, though. So I started a tradition of writing
a yearly update on my girls and tucking it inside their books. Every January, I write a one page update for each girl, describing how they have changed and grown, new interests, developing personality traits, etc.

I wrote these updates yesterday (which was good timing since I have gotten to spend a lot of time with my girls this week while we've been iced in). Since I hope this blog will serve as a kind of family chronicle, I thought I would post a version of my updates on here. Here are each of my girls, described in five words or phrases (which are listed in random order).

Rachel (8 years old): Intelligent, Creative, Slow to change, Determined, and Self-confident

Megan (6 years old): Energetic, Silly, Smart, Soft-hearted, Unabashed

Emily (3 years old): Loving, Quick-witted, Strong-willed, Smart, Sly

It is so much fun to watch these girls grow and change. It is also interesting to see how three kids who have been raised by the same two parents in the same environments can be so similar yet so incredibly different!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Witherspoon Worried

One of my favorite children's books is "Wemberly Worried" by Kevin Henkes. It is about a little girl mouse named Wemberly who worries about everything. In the story, she faces her biggest worry - her first day of school.

Sometimes, I feel like "Witherspoon Worried." I can't help it, though - it's in my genes. My grandmother, Mammaw Crisp, was a champion worrier. My mom could easily take first prize in a worrying contest, too. Now that I am a mother, I suppose it is only natural that I would carry on the worrying tradition.

So what do I worry about?? Well, pretty much anything and everything to do with my kids. Do they eat enough? sleep enough? read enough? exercise enough? Do they watch TV too much? fight too much? talk too much? I want them to have the best of everything - teachers, friends, schedules, etc.

But what does all this worrying accomplish?? Nothing productive really. I just end up feeling stressed and anxious (which my kids will probably pick up on, which will make them stressed and anxious, so now I have to worry about that, too!)

There is a song I love called "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts. Part of the chorus goes:
"My wish for you is that life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, YOUR WORRIES STAY SMALL,
You never have to carry more than you can hold. . ."

Maybe that's why I worry - so my kids don't have to. If I carry most of the worry burden, they will never have to carry more than they can hold. If that's the case, then I will willingly carry on the worrying woes.

At the end of Henkes' story, everything turns out just fine for Wemberly. Of course, I hope everything (i.e. life) will turn out just fine for my kids and me, too. In the meantime, I'll keep worrying and if that makes me anything like my grandmother and my mother then that's o.k. with me!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Inspiration in Monotony

Obviously, I haven't posted anything on here in a while - since August to be exact. I would really like to do it more often, but it seems that life is just too busy. I rarely find the time or inspiration to post something new. In fact, I just said to my husband a couple weeks ago that I don't know how moms who blog daily manage it. Even if I did have the time, my life is just not that interesting. Nobody wants to know how many loads of laundry I did or how many dishes I washed. Does anyone really care what my girls argue about ten thousand times each day??

Then, last week, my mom forwarded me an email. It was something I had read before, but forgotten. It reminded me that, sometimes, the inspiration is in the monotony; in the minutia.

Hopefully, this is the first of more posts to come. I have set a goal (I refuse to call it a New Year's resolution) to post a blog at least once a week. We'll see how long it lasts, but I thought it was only fitting that the first post should include the passage that has inspired me and reminded me how lucky I am to have such a boring, mundane, wonderful, beautiful life!!

The Passage is called "The Invisible Mother" by Mary Lynn Plaisance.

P.S. Thanks, Mom, for the email and for everything you have been and done in my life!!

The Invisible Mother

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the
way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and
ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on
the phone?'

Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or
sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner because no
one can see me at all. I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am
only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this?
Can you open this??

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a
clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What
number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30 ,

Some days I'm a crystal ball: 'Where's my other sock? Where's my phone?
What's for dinner?'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the
eyes that studied history, music and literature--but now, they had
disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going,
she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a
friend from England . She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and
she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting
there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was
hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty
pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and
said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of
Europe . I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her
inscription: 'With admiration for the greatness of what you are building
when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would
discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after
which I could pattern my work: 1) No one can say who built the great
cathedrals--we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave
their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They made
great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their
building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the
cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny
bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are
you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be
covered by the roof, No one will ever see it And the workman replied,
'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was
almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you. I see the
sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does."

No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake
you've baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small
for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but
you can't see right now what it will become.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As
one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see
finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The
writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever
be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to
sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend
he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My Mom gets up at 4
in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a
turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table." That
would mean I'd built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to
come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend,
he'd say, "You're gonna love it there..."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're
doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will
marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been
added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...