Back when I lived in New York City and couldn’t figure out what to do with myself, I would sometimes go to the Barnes and Noble on Sixth Avenue and West 8th Street in the Village and read books I would never ever buy.
My favorite among these books was a tome which listed every single day of the year, along with characteristics of persons born on that day. Even as I snorted my contempt about the idea that someone’s date of birth could actually cast some legitimate light on their personality and habits, I would be astounded by how eerily accurate the book’s descriptions were. And each and every time I came back with the birthday of someone new, hoping to disprove the book’s accuracy, I was thwarted.
Along those same lines, I’ve been thinking about birth order lately. I have a girl who’s now six and a boy who is four. I myself was the younger of two siblings. As I watch my kids and the way they are and have been since pretty much they were born, I have to admit that there may be something to this birth order stuff.
A quick literature review tells me that birth order theories are quite controversial. But, those who subscribe to them assert that the oldest child is the most likely to be a high academic achiever and to have a slightly higher IQ, and that older children are far more likely to be demanding and perfectionists, and also depressed and anxious. It is also a known fact that the vast majority of CEOs from Fortune 500 companies happen to be first-borns.
Younger children, on the other hand, are said to be happier and more laid-back. They also can be more sensitive and have a harder time delaying gratification. It is said that they tend to be more idealistic and bigger risk-takers.
These generalities all appear to be true of the dynamics with and between my two kids, as well as my brother and me. But what does that mean for us all? How much of these outcomes is nature versus nurture?
I’m not sure. I’m still considering whether to give it some or any weight in my parenting.
My hunch, though, is that even when there are strong correlations between birth order theories and your children’s personalities and propensities, they should be given little weight in the bigger picture. Theories should remain just that—theories that may or may not apply today, this week, next month or ever. At the end of the day, each of our children is an individual, shaped, guided and taught by a million different experiences he or she has had since birth.
I guess I have a tough time believing in what my mind interprets–perhaps unfairly–as “hocus pocus,” even when I see it with my own eyes or confirm it with my own experiences. In general, the idea of pre-destiny irks me, makes me feel as if I’m somehow unable to change something fate is catapulting me towards. And I just don’t like that.