Is it true what they say? That birth order plays a strong part in how a person sees the self. That when you grow up with siblings, the positive effects are learning to get along with others. That the middle children are really good at keeping peace and taking risks to make sure everyone is happy and comfortable. That the baby and being the youngest can happen more than once in a family’s run? The oldest, expected to perform and grow at an accelerated pace. New and outstanding adventures to set a precedence for any children that come behind. The oldest, eldest…to ultimately be the one who reflects both parent’s values at the same time. The First Lieutenant, second in command.
I grew up being the oldest. My sister is 4 years younger than me. We grew through stages independently. Only recently, as she came into her 40’s did we find a sense of sameness. It was this decade, before I leave my 40’s , that we share some parallel experiences. It is now that we both have school aged kids in the house. It is now that we are experiencing the advancing health demands of our bodies. It is now that we live towards the second half of life as we know it.
We haven’t lived the same. We have our individual ideas, tastes, dislikes, wants and dreams. Occasionally, we tap each other for ideas. I am so proud of my sister and her drive to fulfill her own dreams. We have expressed our admiration of each other. Hers are different than mine and mine are different from hers. I was always the older sister. Breeching the rules before she would even have to consider. By the time she was old enough to wander away from home on an afternoon, my parents had already established what was expected and also frustrated themselves with rules that made no sense at all. So it goes, it seems subsequent children get more priviledges, but really it’s more likely the parents pick up on what works. Its the path of least resistance.
As the oldest, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to do anything. Then, my sister, was allowed to do anything. I felt like I was setting an example, but my sister was so different, she had no use for my example. She had a better way. I seemed to serve no purpose.
Then, I found out I was adopted.
I spent a weekend at my new, oldest brother’s house. My nearer in age brother and I flew there, to meet and greet. We discovered hands that were the same, hair, skin, likes, dislikes. We immediately (like right off the airplane in the elevator) how easily birth order happens. Biggest brother was ripe and ready for bantering. The teasing, bumping. Suddenly, I was the youngest. The baby. Suddenly, I had 2 big brothers. I was relieved of my duties as the oldest, and gladly. I never felt like an oldest. I didn’t like the responsibility. I didn’t like the assumption that I was a leader at the core. The baby has to be ready to be told what to do. To be pulled along with the group. Imagine my brothers sudden change in order. They were both raised as only children, with no knowledge of siblings anywhere, ever. Only children are a thing. Suddenly, each of them has a brother and a sister.
The first half of my life, unremarkable perhaps. The second half makes more sense. I can look back and see the ‘ifs’. If I had known my brothers and had their meddling ways, I may have known myself better. I certainly would have been a better wife. And my stint as the mother of boys might have been less complex. I see why I took tech drawing , wood shop and auto shop in High School, instead of Home Ec. After meeting my brothers, I see what wasn’t visible before.