Birth Order Theory

I’m a strong believer in birth-order theory.  As the youngest of seven children, I know firsthand that each child has to work harder than the last to get his or her parents’ attention.  I’m 29, and I’m still figuring out how to hold my parents’ interest.

My oldest brother was an outstanding football player, thespian and singer, as well as a straight-A student.  Whenever he excelled in something, it became a family hobby to watch him do it.  So I adopted the same strategy; I tried being outstanding. In elementary school I was always teacher’s pet.  In seventh grade I made it onto the advanced drill team, in 8th grade the All-Star baseball team.  In ninth grade I was team captain of our volleyball team.  Sophomore year I won a French poetry contest.  Junior year I became class vice-president, and senior year I made it into All-State band. 

My parents, if they should find time to read this, are astonished.  They don’t remember any of it.

I should have wised up at the All-State band concert.  After three days of intense rehearsals, we had our culminating performance.  Afterward, hundreds of parents took pictures and bought souvenirs while I waited in the parking lot with my duffle bag for my brother to pick me up. 

Instead of becoming a druggy or marrying one, as a more perceptive laterborn might have done, I went on to college with a full-ride scholarship, the same college my oldest brother attended.  When I was ten years old, the entire family drove fourteen hours so we could watch him graduate.  Surely, a brilliant college career could garner some praise.  So I continued earning A’s, won awards, and was accepted into a prestigious internship program. 

When I graduated, my in-laws came to watch.      

I don’t hold any grudges, though.  I too am amazed by everything my first child does.  When she was four months old, I propped her on the couch so I could take lengthy videos of her staring at the camera.  The only thing that moves in the video is the drool on her chin.  It’s like one of those foreign films my husband loves: we watch for three minutes as a tear drop slides down the wrinkled face of an impoverished babushka.  “This isn’t a movie,” I complain.  “This is a long photograph.”  But he loves it, and no wonder—he’s a first born. 

You see, firstborns spend their whole lives with a captive audience.  No matter what they do, their parents find it deeply engrossing.  Of course all this attention can be gratifying.  The downside is that firstborns never learn to be interesting.  My husband, for example, tries to entertain me in bed by reading aloud our county’s Democratic party platform, three pages of small print.  Poor guy.  It’s not his fault.  His mother probably thought it was interesting when he stared and drooled.

Now I have three children, and I’ve come to realize that four-month-olds, though very sweet, really aren’t too interesting.  My four-month-old gets some love and kisses when it’s time to nurse or change his diaper, then he’s swung up to my hip where he slowly morphs into an accessory, a large ornament on my waist.  Today I forgot all about him as I cared for my two older children.  I helped my older ones get ready for the day and pick up their toys.  We played trains and played with their stuffed animals.  Then Grandma called.  My secondborn frowned as I announced that once again the phone call was for my firstborn.  You see, Grandma was very excited because her first grandchild has lost her first tooth.  This was at least the fifth long-distance call placed in order to relay news about the loose tooth. 

I offered some attention to my secondborn to compensate for the fact that no one is interested in her teeth.  Then the aching in my arm reminded me that I have another child too.  I sat down and swung him around to face me.“Hi baby,” I cooed.  And wow!  What a response!  He was stomping, grinning and making wild noises by inhaling sharply.  In his little green sleepers, he reminded me of a dancing leprechaun, and I knew just what he was thinking:  “Keep smiling!  Keep stomping!  She’s paying attention!”

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0 Responses to Birth Order Theory

  1. You are definitely a talented writer. But “firstborns never learned to be interesting”? My husband read your post and he’s the oldest child in his family. Hearing that he apparently never learned to be interesting was insulting. He is a very interesting guy and has accomplished a lot and loves life. His parents don’t give him much attention and he’s learned not to need it. There’s many different ways to see the same thing – perhaps instead, firstborn children are encouraged to explore the world around them because of the support and love their parents give them. I’m sorry you felt ignored by your family. The blessing of having a family of our own is to right the wrongs that we experienced.

    • Cailean,You are right that firstborns are interesting — my husband and oldest brother are actually some of the most interesting men I know. Perhaps I should have used the word “entertaining.” Research does support the theory that lastborns are more likely to be comedians and entertainers than firstborns, while firstborns are more serious and high-achieving.In any case, I hope you realize that my blog is all tongue-in-cheek. I don’t mean for any of my posts to be taken seriously. In my family it is very hard to hurt each other’s feelings. In fact, the only reason I put this post up today is because my mother requested it. She thinks its hilarious.

  2. Hi Lara,I’m an old friend of Dave’s (from Rick’s). I thought your post was funny…the subtle sarcasm/tongue in cheek is perfect. My family must be one of the exceptions to the rule though. I’m the oldest of 7 and I have to remind my parents of things I did. They’ll say to me, “Rachel (the youngest) had a 4.0 her entire senior year…none of you guys did that”. I have to remind her that I had a 4.0 my junior and senior year. They go to all her activities…I was the one with a duffle bag waiting for my dad to pick me up. It’s all good though…they also remember all the “bad” stuff she’s done;) My husband, on the other hand, is the oldest out of 6 in his family. He is definitely the star of that show. I always thought it was because he’s the only boy. Now I know differently.

  3. Lara,I laughed SO hard!! Thank you, you are seriously getting me addicted to your writing.David had to read it since it looked like I was about to have an accident, and he said (after he laughed) “she clearly doesn’t know anything about middle child syndrome!”Poor guy, he’s even trying to get attention from you!

  4. Christine Cardon

    This is very exaggerated. By the way when did you have a third baby?Mom

  5. Peggy

    As Lara’s older/middle sister, I have to agree…I didn’t know about the drill team, all star baseball, volleyball captain, French poetry… She should have tried being flaky like me. It got me tons of attention. Ha Ha Ha.

  6. Rosene

    Lara,This is too funny. And I do remember you doing most of those things and more:-)

  7. Joe

    That is one of the best posts I have ever read, and I loved your mother’s response…classic! I wonder what your thoughts are on children born in the middle. I always give my mom a hard time that I was a forgotten child growing up, something I think most middle children tend to be. But that is just my theory.

  8. Someone referred your blog to us at The Power of Moms. And I had to come take a peek. That is a brilliant essay about birth order. I am a strong believer in birth order and as a second born, I could do a post very similar to yours…Your blog is certainly a stand-out blog. At The Power of Moms, we’re working to gather the most uplifting and empowering blogs for moms all into one place. We’d love to add your blog to our new ‘Best of The Blogs’ list. You can check it out at this link: http://powerofmoms.com/categories/nurture-yourself/best-of-the-blogs.htmlPlease let me know if you’d like to join the list. Have a great day.Tiffany

  9. Thanks for the laugh. I truely did Laugh Out Loud. 🙂

  10. Lara, that was too cute and funny! Talking about birth order, Bethany was being courted by a cute young man but decided she just wasn’t interested in him. When I asked why, she, who has put up with the antics of her only brother and the baby boy, answered, “He’s a baby boy!” Aunt Jody swears that in a class room, she can tell you just which boys are the baby of the family. Girls, not so much.

  11. Rebecca Bratsman

    Ah, yes, my youngest sister had this same problem. My dad was notorious for forgetting to pick her up from activities so she would call him several times a day to remind him and leave him notes all over the house. When she was coming home from her mission, the mission office called to remind him and he said, “Did she put you up to this??!!!”

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