Monday, July 9, 2012

I'm a super-firstborn

Did you know that of the first 23 astronaunts in space, 21 were first borns and the other two were only children? Did you know that entrepreneurs are more likely to come from middle or later born positions in their families (think of Donald Trump, Bill Gates and Steve Forbes)? And the youngest born? Billy Crystal, Martin Short, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Eddy Murphy and Whoopi Goldberg are all the youngest of their sex in their families.

I love finding out about people’s birth order in their families. I’m not a big fan of the introverted/extroverted distinction given to people and I’m ho-hum about the ENJFSTXV (or whatever) personality tests. But birth order traits – now that I can go on and on about!

The Birth Order Book: Why You are the Way You are
The Birth Order Book by Dr Kevin Leman is a really fun read and explains why you are all keen on charts and to-do lists and laminated print-offs while your younger sister is always organising things at the last minute. It’s not down on any one group (firsties are not always the best and younger siblings a pain) and it helped me understand a lot about my own personality and drive towards to rules and procedures. In my husband’s family of four boys, the personalities play out pretty much according to the book.

There are some exceptions: if there is a change in gender, the rules don’t all follow through. So if you have a boy, and three years later have a girl, you may well end up with two “firstborns” as they both assume a first-born role in their gender. Likewise, if there is a gap of five or more years between babies, the newcomer may indeed be a functional-firstborn. Additionally, if the firstborn faces extreme pressure from a perfectionistic home, and they have a close-in-age sibling, the two children may reverse positions as the younger enjoys usurping the older and the older sibling gives up to avoid the pressure and competition. Too many exceptions? Well, maybe. But on the whole, it made sense to me.

I was half-way through the book and I read something very interesting: you tend to marry a different birth-order from your own but your closest friends are usually the same birth order as you. That’s when I knew it couldn’t be true. Yes, my husband is a different birth order from me. But my closest friends? I’m an only child and I didn’t have any only-children friends. Then it hit me like a bolt of lightning! All four of my closest friends at that stage were the youngest children in their families born more than 12 years after their nearest same-gender sibling or were first-born children who didn’t have another sibling for more than 7 or 8 years after them. In other words, all of my closest buddies were functional-only-children. And I’d never even thought about the fact that they all had that in common!

So how about you? Did you marry a person with a different birth order to your own? Are your buddies in the same birth order as you?  I can't do justice to the whole of the book but it's worth of read if you enjoy thinking about why you tick.  It might be available at your local library or try any of the usual suspects online.


Karen said...

I'm a first-born...there you go, we were made to be friends :)
My husband is the youngest of five (and far more laid back than me). Friends, I'm not so sure. I have friends in lots of different birth-order positions....

Ben McLaughlin said...

I'm the youngest of four, my wife's the youngest of five. Friends? Dunno..varied.

Deb said...

Yeah, but Karen and Ben, sometimes people are a different "birth order" than they are position in the family. For example, my friend may be the youngest of four girls, but because she was a surprise baby born 13 years after the nearest sibling, she carries more first-born traits than she does youngest traits. A second-born child who is a boy may have an older sister, but because he is the oldest of three brothers, he may act may be a functional-firstborn because he is the eldest of his gender. Awh - I can't do the whole book justice but it is a fun read.

simone r said...

I'm the classic middle child (#2 of 3. Second girl.) I married a first born. Of my friends, those who I feel 'get' me the most are also angsty middle kids.

Tasmanian said...

It's all those "buts" (ie born 15 years after sister, or eldest girl but not eldest child) which make my husband groan audibly whenever I ask someone if they are the eldest in their family. He also laughs when you say functional first-born and adds "don't let your three older sisters hear you say that!"

My eldest sister? Writes lists and laminates stuff. Married a first-born of four.
The next-down sister? Lives furthest away. Married a first-born of six.
The third girl? Carved out a niche career. Her husband is one of three boys and I am guessing he's the youngest.
And fifteen years behind... The fourth girl? A nice mix of first-born and baby traits ;) Married a first-born of five.