“That’s the universe paying you back!”
Words from my mother ringing in my head every time my oldest whines. And whines and whines and whines. I can only shake my head as I realize he is a mini me. From the whining, to the extreme cautiousness, to bossing everyone around… the quintessential oldest of three children.
I am a big believer in how birth order affects personality. The dynamic between how many siblings you have (or don’t) and how your parents’ parenting changes over the course of time is huge! I myself can only attest fully to a family of three children, but 4 times over. I am one of three children, my mother is one of three, my grandmother is one of three and I have three kids myself. The similarities I see in each correlating member of our families is pretty amazing. Let’s dive in!
I believe the biggest difference you will ever see in your parenting is going from 1 to 2 kids. Not that it’s easier or harder, but you are in a completely different mindset. With your first, everything is new. Every milestone is a huge accomplishment, not just for the baby but for yourself. In the same light, everything is scary. You are so cautious with your first… reading all the books, following all the regulations put out by doctors and associations, sterilizing binkies, bottles, cups, spoons, freaking out the first time your baby rolls from back to front in their sleep (yes, I used to flip him back on his back!). I don’t tell many people this, but the first three days in the hospital with my first born, I only slept about 3 hours because I had the most irrational thought that if I wasn’t watching him he would stop breathing. I know, stupid. But your world is rocked and, if you are like me, all you have ever dreamed of just came true. You cherish every moment and are amazed at this tiny human that you created.
Enter baby #2. Been-there-done-that comes to mind. I love those Luvs diapers commercials “second time moms”. First baby: someone asks to hold the kid, you hand them a bottle of sanitizer. Second baby: handing them off to virtual strangers while you rummage through your purse to pay a mechanic. First baby: piling up a stroller with 2 diaper bags, snacks, bottles, nursing covers, change of clothes and 3 extra binkies. Second kid: leave the house with one diaper, 1/8 of a packet of wipes and the binkie in your own mouth. They are absolutely, 100% spot on. In reality, what it comes down to is you have experienced it all and realize you aren’t going to break your kid. And as much as we might not want to admit it, you are probably so worn out by two toddlers you just can’t care about half the things you obsessed over with your first.
Now, how heavily does all of this resonate through your children? A lot. Again, this is just by my experience, but let’s go through my family.
If you couldn’t tell already, I’m a first born. I’m controlling, cautious, over achieving at times, bossy, structured (my friends are all laughing right about now at how much structured doesn’t begin to describe my need for thorough planning), and reliable. Some of these things don’t sound so flattering, but I believe they all have a perfect balance. Moving onto the middle child, or my sister as an example. Not the oldest, not the youngest. Always searching for where they fit in. They tend to be rebellious (an understatement in my sister’s case) and rely heavily on their friends. They have large social circles because they would rather be with like minds than deal with the struggle of the middle child. One thing that always sticks out in my head is how much my sister talked back. I would never dream of doing that, and was always amazed at what could come out of her mouth.
As adults, it seems the middle child is the one who has to do it on their own. I can give my sister all the advice in the world, but she hates being told what to do. So they usually have to abide by the good old adage “you live, you learn”, or in my sisters case “Ronni is always right” ;).
The baby. My brother. A double whammy right there being the only boy as well. For the most part they are spoiled, not so much because they are favored, but because by the time you have three you just don’t want to fight anymore. A lot, if not all of, the rules you had with your first are rarely enforced with #3. They also have a similar sense of entitlement with the oldest because they have the title of “the youngest”. Something about these two book ends that just screams “I’m special!” They also tend to be the comedic relief of the family. They have no responsibilities and that generally translates into them being carefree and uncomplicated.
Now that I have my own children, all of this smacks me in the face everyday. My oldest acts just like me. Just like me. I have to remind myself sometimes that he can’t help it. My second born was a middle child even before my third showed up (another reason I strongly believe in birth order, it’s like he knew we weren’t done). He pushed every button I had and gave me a few parenting heart attacks, despite me being a more laid back parent with him. And then there is my daughter (yes, another double whammy of the youngest and only girl). Spoiled rotten and has both of us wrapped around her little finger. I can only imagine how all of this will translate to adulthood, but I have 3 previous generations that give me a pretty good idea.