For many years I had heard references to a child’s birth order when describing personalities. Whether the child was the eldest, youngest or the middle child was always credited or blamed for their personality. Since I was an only child, I couldn’t relate, but realized that even for children like me, there was no escape.
Even some of my friendships have been colored (in good fun) by these so-called birth order personalities. In recent years, I have grown particularly close to two other women even if we have very distinct personalities. I’m the youngest in the group, and both have since taken to teasing me as bunso, while the eldest in the group is our beloved “middle child” because she has always demonstrated, in her own words, “classic middle-child syndrome.”
Meanwhile, our ate is actually right smack between me and the eldest. Yet nobody else in our little group can command such leadership and authority.
I have another bigger group of girl friends, in which we also have one ate whom we all love and respect, because she really acts like the big sister of everyone.
I never used to think of birth orders, or consider them when analyzing behavior. After all, siblings grow up with the same parents in the same home and under the same rules—so how can being born first or last make such a big difference? I always assumed that our personalities are shaped more by the environment and the experiences we encounter while growing up, as well as the circumstances we find ourselves in.
However, since having three children of my own, I find myself becoming more curious that, yes, my kids all have the same genes but I treat each one differently, based on their (gulp!) birth order.
This was first pointed out by my husband Migs when we had only two kids.
There were times he would tell me I was babying our son too much. I never used to believe him until he started to compare my expectations from our son, to what I expected from our firstborn when she was his age.
My expectations are reinforced by what we call the children at home. For instance, from the moment we found out I was pregnant, we began calling our eldest child Adriana as Ate, to prepare her for her new role.
Now that we have a third child, our second born, Juanmi, is officially known as Kuya.
A quick browse online reveals the popularity of this subject, as hundreds of articles popped up about the business of birth orders.
The firstborn child is also known as the trial-and-error project. Just kidding! Seriously, as any first-time parent knows, there is nothing more nerve-wracking or intimidating than taking care of a baby for the first time. Many of us went strictly by the book, not having enough experiences to bank on for guidance.
As a result, firstborn children are supposedly more likely to grow up to be leaders and perfectionists, always striving to do their best in everything.
Also, based on my experience with my own firstborn and our group’s ate, I noticed that they seem to be good at taking care of others because, from an early age, they lose their status as “baby” and become instant little Mommies (or little daddies for boys) to their younger siblings.
I sometimes forget how young Adriana is because there are always younger children around us, her siblings. It’s only when spending one-on-one time with her that I am reminded how young she actually is. While happy that she is becoming responsible, I try my best to always remember she is just a child, and to cut her some slack more often.
According to the website www.parents.com, most firstborn children are reliable, conscientious, structured, cautious and achievers.
Caught in the middle and supposedly overlooked, being neither the firstborn nor the youngest, the middle child will seek attention outside, from peers, making him/her the most sociable. Also, having exposure to both younger and older kids helps the middle child learn to get along with just about anyone.
Prone to rebellion
In many cases, the middle child has to learn to get attention at home and may develop attention-getting strengths such as sense of humor and conversational skills.
In some cases, they may be prone to rebellion. Perhaps this is a bid to catch attention, or an effect of not having enough of it to nip problems in the bud.
The middle child, says the website, is usually a people-pleaser, somewhat rebellious, thrives on friendships, has a large social circle and a peacemaker.
The youngest child is the result of tried-and-tested methods, raised with less rules and in a more relaxed manner. By the time parents get to their last-born, I wouldn’t say they are already tired, but rather have calmed down and know what to go to war for and what to simply let go.
But as the last child, he/she also has nobody else to look after, becoming the baby forever, and may end up spoiled well into adulthood.
Just as everyone looks to the eldest for guidance, so everyone looks at the youngest as the baby whom they all adore and take care of, which is why youngest children don’t feel the pressures of responsibility and are very comfortable being in the spotlight. Youngest children are usually fun-loving, uncomplicated and outgoing.
And in a class of his/her own—I’m not sure if that’s good or bad—is the only child. Being an only child means you spend most of your time growing up with your parents. According to www.parents.com, an only child is similar to the firstborn but on a hyper level, as he/she has no siblings to share the pressure or expectations. An only child is very comfortable with much older company and tends to take on the responsibilities of an adult at an earlier age.
Because of this, most only child kids are mature for their age, perfectionists, conscientious, diligent and leaders.
However, this only applies to children who are born within close proximity to one another. According to American Baby magazine, if you have a gap of five years or more and a new batch of children come, then you also have a new cycle of birth orders in the family.
While reading up and writing on the subject, admittedly I had fun comparing the supposed traits to people I know and that of my children. However, it also showed that a lot of people I know did not seem to fit their category.
At the end of the day, birth order or not, no “personality” has to remain permanent, nor can it ever be predicted.
However, it is always helpful to have an idea of the possible outcomes of our behavior toward our children, so that we can better take care of them and watch our words and actions.