There have been several occasions when people have made comments to me about how the personalities of my children are related to the order in which they were born into our family. I resisted this idea, thinking that the stereotypes and reductionism of this approach are not helpful. Not only that but I have a disliking of the idea that something like birth order, which is so far beyond our control, surely could not be such a strong influence on who my child will become. What I am coming to realize however is that it is life in the home that changes with each addition to the family.
I did a quick search to come up with this information about the stereotypes based on birth order:
1st born = the achiever
2nd born = the peacemaker
3rd born = the life of the party
In my quick overview of the information from a few sources, the idea is that we as parents treat our children different based on how they fit into the familial structure. What I find interesting about this is that the parents are actually the ones determining a child’s fate. Why is it that we try so hard to have control over our firstborns, and relax so much by the time we get to number three? I would say experience, but more aptly it is out of necessity. When I had my first, I wanted to do everything ‘right’ in order to raise my child to be the best he could be. But in my effort to control the directions of his growth, what has been overshadowed? What has been lost? My first does fit into the stereotypes above, because of me. Not because I treated him differently based on some preconceived notion of how he should fit into the family, but rather my preconceived notions of what it means to be a parent.
So I am left feeling like I have actually failed my firstborn! Now that I have three children, I have had the chance to do a lot of inner work, and observation about my parenting. I have come a long way in my parenting journey in five short years. I have relaxed a lot more with my children, see more opportunities to enjoy the journey, and have far more trust than I ever thought possible! Rather than feeling like my third child has gotten the short end of the stick, I feel like she has the opportunity to figure out who she is without so much of my well meaning influence. Even statements like ‘be careful‘ uttered repeatedly whittle away at our children’s confidence. I have learned to sit back and watch a whole lot more. That is also thanks to RIE and the work of Magda Gerber and Janet Lansbury She is a very independent child and can occupy herself quite nicely. What are we losing of our children when we try to direct them toward our own agendas? What could they be if we offered supportive compassion without hidden agendas?