SINCE becoming a parent, I have simultaneously become somewhat of an amateur psychologist.
On top of the obvious, dealing with different minor childhood emotional upsets, I find it endlessly fascinating watching these four humans I made grow up before my eyes and seeing how differently they all develop in their personalities. I frequently ponder the notion of nature versus nurture and how their position in the family affects how they become their own person.
I remember being in an interview once and being asked me was I an eldest child. The question stumped me because, as a fresh-faced 20-something year old, I was naive enough to think I had developed my stellar personality free from influence. But that is absolutely impossible to achieve and I see now, as a parent, the effect your position in the family has, regardless of how equally you try to distribute the load.
Out of curiosity, in my newly-acquired role as head psychologist within the household, I have done quite a lot of reading on the topic, and interestingly your birth order is deemed to be one of the strongest influences on your personality, alongside other obvious influences like gender, temperament and parenting styles. So we as parents (and amateur psychologists!) have a lot to answer for.
I come from a family of four children so often find myself drawing comparisons between myself, my siblings, my children and their birth order. I see so many comparisons between me as the eldest and my eldest lady, we are both high achievers with plenty of experience in pushing the boundaries.
Naturally, eldest children are born leaders, it goes without saying, and are of course the most likely to be bossy, which is a useful trait at times as a parent.
I have tried over the years to make a conscious effort not to rely on my eldest lady for help, she is the perfectionist within the family so suffice to say, if you ask her to help you know she will do as good a job as she can.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the recent advent of hormones that has begun to affect her ability to help without turning into a mass of huffing and puffing. I’d take that though any day over the lacklustre efforts of my second born, who does not feel the need to appease her parents as much as the eldest.
I have the pleasure of having two middle children so I’m not sure if they share the traits of a typical middle child between them. Middle children tend to get on well with everyone as they were born into a house where a dynamic already exists, so they have a good ability to fit in and get along with people.
I find my two middle girls in particular have incredible imaginations and their ability to play together in their own little worlds is fascinating. I suspect this is because they were left to their own devices to play together when they were younger. My eldest lady, while creative, used to struggle to play imaginatively when she was younger, possibly because when she was the only child we spent a lot of time helping and directing her with puzzles and games. She often tries to slot into make-believe games with the younger two, but ends up bossing them around and trying to direct the game, so inevitably playtime gets disbanded and they come looking to watch the TV.
My poor brother was probably bullied into submission by three older, dominating sisters so he is a quiet, placid lad who just gets on with things and is very independent. My youngest, while staunchly independent, certainly does get on with things, she is the textbook youngest child who is a charmer and constantly fighting for her fair share of attention (which she most certainly gets, let me assure you!).
Obviously, as you become more confident in your parenting, the youngest sibling is pushing against boundaries that are far wider than they were for the first-born. My girls had a crazy hair day in school and my ten-year-old was determined to dye her hair for it, her first time being allowed to do so despite having asked numerous times over the years. Therefore, you can imagine her frustration when I not only also allowed the eight and six year old to dye their hair, but when I let the four year old put semi-permanent streaks of pink and purple in her hair the eldest lady almost popped!
Probably explains why the youngest is generally the biggest risk-taker of the lot - they know fewer boundaries!