Pages

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Youngest, Oldest, Middle, Only


(l.to r. Mom, Everett, Jane, Judy, and me, circa 1980)


Well, it's no secret to a lot of you longtime readers of my blog that I am the baby of my family. So, if you believe in the psychology of birth order, then I am a risk-taking idealist with a good sense of humor who is hard working but immature, attention-seeking, secretive, sensitive, spoiled, manipulative, outgoing, affectionate, confident, self-centered, empathetic, confident, and a creative social diva. Whew!  But this is where it gets interesting.

Because my siblings are quite a bit older than I am (my brother is 19 1/2 years older, oldest sis was 14 years older, and my other sis 9 years older), and they all got married relatively young and moved out of the house, I was basically an only child at age seven. But wait, there's more.

When I was four years old, my first niece was born with several more nieces and nephews following within a few years, and I was practically raised with a few of them. So, in effect, I was also an oldest child, because I was often put in charge of them.

Still yet, I was also like a middle child because I fell between these two age groups.  To throw a few more clinkers into the mix, I also had waaay older half-brothers who were only a couple of years younger than my mother. They had children, so I was an aunt who was younger than her nieces and nephews. Are you totally confused yet? Well, join the club!

Add to all that mess the fact that my father died when I was only 9 and my mother remarried when I was twelve and brought two step-brothers who were the same ages as my sisters into it. According to birth order psychology, I probably should be nothing less than a maniacal serial killer....or President of the United States. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

First-borns are usually classified as either compliant or aggressive. In that category, I mostly have compliant traits: such as; people pleaser, craves approval, nurturer, caregiver, reliable, conscientious, cooperative, "grin and bear it" mentality. On the aggressive side, I can identify with: perfectionist, always having things under control (though I rarely do, I still want it that way), conventional, want things my way. Not so much a mover or shaker or a natural leader or driven. My term for myself is "slacker perfectionist".

My middle-born traits come out as: peacemaker, mediator, hates confrontation, reads people well, gets along well with others, stubborn, cynical and suspicious. One of my favorite sayings is "if it sounds too good to be true...." well, you know the rest.

The "only child" characteristics fall much along the lines of first-borns in strengths. However, the weaknesses are right up my alley: self-centered, criticizes self and others, worries too much, feel they're always right (just ask my husband), inflexible, and fearful of trying new things.  That last one is the kicker. I have always let my fear of making a fool of myself stand in the way of experiencing many things in life, especially when I was younger. Do you know that there are two things that most Americans know how to do that I have never learned? I have never bowled and I have never learned to roller skate. I tried it once and never let go of the rail the entire excruciating twenty minutes that I was in the rink and I never tried it again. How lame is that?!!

So, there you have me in a nutshell....and, yeah, I know what that makes ME!  And back to my actual status as the youngest....I'll let you decide which of those traits you think I possess.

45 comments:

Kathleen said...

Wow, I loved reading this! I am the youngest of 9 girls. My oldest sister is 18 years older than me. I was an aunt at the age of 2 and the only child left at home by the time I was 11. So I guess I have many birth order hats that I wore growing up too!

CottageGirl said...

Wow! Just shows why you are a mixture of such great traits ... Including thoughtfulness, sweetness, creativeness, dedication, intelligence and most probably the ability to adapt.

So glad I've gotten to know YOU!!!

Susan said...

Kathleen, you're as much of a mixed bag as I am! Are your traits all mixed up like mine? I couldn't be more of a paradox, but it makes for an interesting life! LOL

Susan said...

Sweet CG, I knew I could count on you to pull out the good traits that you like in me....and being the attention-seeking, approval craving person that I am, I LOVE it!!! Thank you.

Wanda said...

What a configuration of traits your place in the family tree has given you! I'm the oldest of 3 girls, but somehow I have almost ALL of the traits you have. I've never bowled or rollerskated either! I relate to your self describing term "slacker perfectionist" also! :)

Char said...

my family will tell you that i'm very much the oldest child. :)

very thoughtful and thought provoking personality insight. and roller skating is fun; however, i think bowling is very boring so you missed nothing with that one.

Ruth said...

It's so incredible how each of us is shaped. Look at all the family factors that shaped you. I think you're a mix of all three, based on what you've shared. You know, we are all very complex, but it can be very useful to understand some of these characteristics, especially as children understanding our parents (I'm working on a post for my parents' wedding anniversary, see how synced we are?). Like my dad, whose father also died when he was nine, who ended up having to go to work when he was 11. Eckhart Tolle says if we were born with the same genes and circumstances as any other person, we would make the same choices they do! That is so humbling to think about, and I try to remind myself of it when I start getting critical of some who annoys me.

You have become a beautifully well rounded and vibrant person, with all those circumstances, Susie!

M said...

Susan-
So sorry if you get 2 versions of this; my memory and Google account are failing me unilaterally.
This post is hilarious! You have, hands down, the most complicated birth order of anyone I know. In technologic terms, I think you would be described as a mash-up! I am technically a middle child, but with my older brother 8 years ahead of me, I show some oldest traits as well. I never felt solid in either category.

PS I spotted the Laura Ingalls Wilder book on your shelf. Are you reading these to Lauren? They were my faves as a kid and I loved reading them to my daughter who is now also a huge fan.

Mary

Susan said...

Well, Wanda, it looks as if we were meant to be related! I thought I was the only one in the country who has never learned either one of those skills. I make up for it though with my awesome cake-decorating skills! hahahaha ;)

Think I could get a copyright on my slacker perfectionist term? :)

Susan said...

Char, from what I know of you (and that is only what you reveal in your blog), I can tell that you are a classic first-born. You seem very much like my first-born with your love of family, evidenced by the nurturing and protecting I've witnessed. Also conscientious and you're definitely a perfectionist in your artistic talents and I'm sure that carries over into your home and work lives.

I would still love to learn to roller skate, but it's just too far to fall at my advanced age! Maybe I'll learn to bowl, although I could still fall on that slick floor. If I do it with the grandkids, maybe nobody will notice me...they'll be too busy looking at the cutie-patooties!

Susan said...

Ruthie, maybe my mom should have hired me out after my dad died. We sure could have used the money! :)

I found it fascinating that when there is a life-changing event in a family, a child's birth order characteristics can bump up or down, depending on the trauma involved. Also, when one loses a sibling, the one(s) left behind often takes on characteristics of the departed one. I've found that to be true with our immediate family. That should probably be a sequel post.

Thank you for thinking that I'm well-rounded, dear heart. Of course, you only see the best side of me. We will never travel over to the dark side. ;)

Susan said...

Hello, mystery Mary! Are you the Mary from Flat Rock Creek?

Thank you for appreciating my comedic attempts...you know, I am a frustrated stand-up comedian! Hey, maybe I could bill myself as the Mash-up Stand-up! I could get a lot of mileage out of my B.O. Oh dear, that didn't come out right! buh-da-bump...I'll be here all week, folks!

Anyway, it's interesting that you have some "oldest" traits. From what I read, that is usually the case when there is a widespread age difference.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Interesting!
I was an only lonely.. from the feed them-love them-leave them alone generation. Emphasis on leave them alone. I'm pretty sure that puts me in the serial killer range too. :)

dutchbaby said...

I think you managed to glean the best of all the qualities! I'm the youngest but definitely not spoiled. Difficult to spoil a child when you barely make ends meet each month.

My husband is the second of five children but the only boy. In many regards he was an only and an oldest.

VioletSky said...

Oh this is great - no matter what troubles you have, or what your successes are, you can blame your 'birth order'!

hehe... slacker perfectionist!

ds said...

Oh dear, here you are, such a wonderful person & all I can think of is that terrible song "I'm my own Grandpa!" Which you aren't. I can relate to "slacker perfectionist," though.
That is quite a bundle of birth-orders you carry and I'll bet it is a burden at times, but it has made you you: generous, gracious, creative, caring, soulful...I leave the potential diva for others to decide ;)
It has put you here, too, and I am grateful for that.

Judy said...

My Dear Sister, with so many people to spoil you,our Grandmother who would rock you to sleep and then ROCK you awake again, our Daddy would dare anyone to lay a hand on you no matter what you said or did, and Mom was just about the same, and of course, you know I had to quit taking piano lessons to help take care of you.... LOL.... hated the darn lessons. but with all that spoiling, you sure did turn out to be a sweet, loving and wonderful writin, little Sister. I love you to pieces

HUGS FOR YOU ALWAYS

culdesacchronicles said...

Oh, mah goodness! You must not know whether your coming or going.

My husband was the youngest of two, but he was what's known as a caboose baby - born seven or more years after the last sibling. He was 13 years younger than his brother and was raised as an only child from seven years old.

I'm the baby of four and ended up being the one to care for my dad. Yes, strong caregiving and pleaser traits there.

Great post.
Bella

Susan said...

Natashya, I grew up in that generation, too. When I wasn't in school, I left the house after breakfast, came home for lunch (if I didn't get an invitaion from one of my friends' mothers), left again and then came home for supper, and then back out again until dark. Parents just didn't hover over their children and schedule them within an inch of their lives back then. In some ways, I think it made us more resourceful and independent.

And the only serial killing you could ever do would be with your delicious food!! :)

Susan said...

dutchbaby, you're very sweet...I'm pretty sure I've never shown any of my negative qualities on here though! haha

My spoiling definitely had nothing to do with spending money on me....we didn't have any either. In fact, after my dad died, mom often worried about where the next meal would come from. All my spoiling came in the form of letting me have my way, because it was easier. Hey, when you're tired, it just IS easier sometimes. Of course, there are repercussions to face, but I guess it all turned out okay in the end.

Your husband is just like me without quite so many complications!

Susan said...

That's right, Sanna, always blame your imperfections on the birth order! There's something in there for everyone!

Susan said...

Oh my gosh, ds! We do think alike! I almost included a reference to "I'm My Own Grandpa"!! We went to a Chuck Wagon evening when we were in Colorado on vacation way back when and the entertainment included that song. I loved it then and I still do. In fact, I have a tape from them that has it on there.

Thank you very much for your sweetly kind words. I love being here and having sweet you be a part of my blogger world. :))

Susan said...

Dear sweet, loving Sister, you sure know how to bring tears to my eyes. That's the most wonderful thing that you've ever said to me. Maybe when you're spoiled with love and not with things, it brings out good qualities and not bad ones.

You are the best sister in the world and I love you to pieces and back together again. XOXOXO

Susan said...

Bella, you have no idea how often I say, "I don't know if I'm coming or going!" lol

I had forgotten that term "caboose baby". Yeah, I'm pretty sure my mom and dad didn't have plans on having me...my dad was 63 and mom was 39, so they were probably thinking "oh great, now what?"

I guess the bottom line is all this stuff is what makes us unique and special in our own way. I suppose I wouldn't change a thing.

dutchbaby said...

P.S. I think we had the same hairdresser and optician in the eighties. Oy!

Deborah said...

Well, well, Susan! You not only have possibly THE most interesting mix of siblings I've ever heard of, but you sure got those comments rolling in! There was something for everybody to relate to here.

The French call this kind of family 'recomposeacute;' which I think is a lot more realistic than 'blended' 'cause they're often not blended at all.

I've read bits and pieces about birth order characteristics and it is s fascinating subject. I recognized my eldest brother in there (controlling) and my middle one (peacemaker, which he does for a living, too!) and me, the tag-along who has to continually remind herself that there are other people who think they are just as important as she is!

I have an impression of you, obviously, but it's not complete enough for me to say which of the various traits apply most to you. The last one you mention -being afraid to try new things - wasn't something I associated with youngest children and I'm not typical of that, but I think being afraid to look foolish is something different. Hmm...this has got me thinking. I have only a half-formed thought on it right now so won't risk looking like an idiot by writing it out just yet!!

What comes across of your personality here is generosity, warmth, insight, intelligence, helpfulness, self-deprecation and humour, to name a few.
Very fun to get to know the story behind Susan a little better!

Deborah said...

Oops that little bit of French HTML didn't work very well...should have read 'recomposé

Susan said...

dutchbaby, I can't believe it took this long for someone to notice! Loved the 80's...perms and big glasses! Oy vey for sure!

Susan said...

Deborah, and here I was thinking that "recomposeacute" was some sort of extreme blending, uncurable even! ;) Actually, that's a pretty good definition, when you think about it.

I think you're absolutely right that being afraid to try something new and being afraid of looking foolish are two separate things. It's not that I don't want to try new things, I just don't want anyone to watch me doing it! I've overcome most of that now that I'm older. Looking foolish in my fifties isn't nearly as devastating as it was when I was 16. I would love to hear what other thoughts you have on this subject.

Thank you for getting to know me and for your kind words. I'm pretty sure they could just as easily be applied to you. Getting to know you is très amusement!

The Bumbles said...

My mom was the youngest of seven. She came along well after the rest because the original baby of the family died as a child. A few years later, my mom joined the world. Her oldest sibling is 20 years older. Her closest sibling in age is I think 10 years older. She was spoiled rotten and often such a novelty. Her sister was so excited to have another girl and not another brother. My mom also grew up with her nieces and nephews - some of whom were the same age. It is a very close family, who still spoils her whenever they can. But it also made her tough, tagging along with all those older kids. Anyone with that big of a family is blessed with love. So I am trying to figure out why they let you wear those glasses. I had ones like that too. Mine were supposed to lighten and darken automatically with the light - but they never did - they always looked like sunglasses. Such a dork.

Susan said...

Molly, we must have had the same glasses! Mine were Transitions lenses, too! The thing I always hated about them is when you walked into a movie theater, you were practically blind for a few seconds until they adjusted. And they always made me look kind of sick, because they didn't get completely clear. I'm not sure why at least ONE of my loved ones didn't try to rescue me from these hideous spectacles...probably because everyone was wearing the same kind! lol

How funny that your mom's family is similar to mine! Is she as wacky as I am? ;) You're absolutely right about being blessed with love...so many loving arms to embrace me when I go home for a visit. And yes, they still spoil me, too.

Cora said...

Well I think you turned out OK in my book! You sound like a survivor to me..you know like Reba!

I never learned to water ski...tried it once and when I got my earrings snatched out and my bathing suit bottoms almost came off...I QUIT and never tried again! :)
No need to even mention that I never tired to snow ski...the word chicken comes to mind!

steviewren said...

Susan, I can completely identify with your compliant first-born self. That is me to a t.The only place perfectionism comes out is when I attended college at the age of 43. I had to be the best in all of my classes...no one had to acknowledge that I was the best, I just had to know my grades were the highest...or maybe that was my geeky side showing through. Anywhoo...great post!

VaNeSsA said...

Susan, you're a doll. I love this post. I am at work now and need to get home, so I'll write a more thoughtful comment later, but I just wanted to tell you this: don't worry - roller skating and bowling are both fairly lame anyway!!!! :)

Susan said...

Cora, that sounds just like me, except I would never have tried the water-skiing to begin with! I'm not a big fan of being in water over my head, especially with a speeding boat in front of me! Yikes!

I watch with fascination when the Olympic skiers are doing the downhill. I can't stand the thought of being out of control on slick snow and ice on the bunny slope, much less coming off those peaks at high speed with complete abandon. Holy terrors, Batman!!!

Susan said...

stevie, oh my goodness, I did something similar when I was in my thirties. I didn't go to college (well, one quarter, but that doesn't count) and the high school where I went in the late 60's/early 70's didn't require everyone to take algebra as they do now. Algebra scared me, so I took business courses instead. It always bugged me that I didn't take it, so I signed up for a baby course at the local state university branch that offered adult education-geared courses. I got perfect scores on all my tests and actually understood it. Don't know why I was so scared of it. Oh, that's right, I had to be perfect and I was afraid I would fail! So stupid. I actually wish I could do over high school, knowing then what I know about myself now.

Susan said...

No, Vanessa, you're the doll! Those things may be lame, but I still feel lame for not having learned for silly reasons. Maybe I should have my 83-year-old mother-in-law teach me to bowl. She does it every week in a league and would bowl every day, if she lived closer to the bowling alley! She's amazing!

Oliag said...

Dear Susan...I was thinking of "I'm my own Grandpa" too:)...What a wonderful family tree with many branches...I am sure you have inherited the best of each order...certainly kindness...this is what I see in you...

Susan said...

Oliag, you are such a dear. It takes a kind person to see kindness in another. :)

I can't believe you've heard that song, too! I thought it was very obscure, but apparently not! haha

I do have a wonderful and loving family. So many of them have passed on and that's very sad, but it's the way of life....and life goes on, doesn't it?

Elle Bee said...

So, are you going to be on the 2012 presidential ballot? :o)

I'm the youngest, but only of 2, so I probably can't claim any birth order rights, right? :o)

Susan said...

Why, of course you can, Elle! You're the youngest...so are you spoiled rotten by your family? Hahaha!

Maybe not 2012, but 2016 is looking good! ;)

stacybuckeye said...

You've got quite a mix going on Susan! I'm an only, but have never read about being afraid to try new things. I always blamed that on my parents who were very routine oriented and never wantedd to try new things. In the past few years I've gotten past that. Life's too short. Oh wait, am I still talking about me? ;)
I cannot believe you've never bowled!

Susan said...

Stacy, you're right! Life IS too short! I think I should go to the local bowling alley and learn to bowl. Maybe I'll be like my mother-in-law and be bowling on a league when I'm in my 80's!

I guess now you can blame your fears on your birth order...which is kind of your parents fault anyway. ;)

Sunmallia said...

Wow that is quite a family! Loved your story but had to read twice as there is a lot going on there, but look how great as all those people probably did contribute to a lot of who you are! I guess you would call me an only child, my brother passed away very young and I was 6 years older then him to start. I admire people who come from large families you are very lucky.

Susan said...

Sunmallia, thank you for visiting! Family dynamics are very interesting to me and sometimes fascinating. It is very nice coming from a large and loving family. They've always got my back. :)