Statistical studies disproved Alfred Adler’s theory about the alleged characteristics of children’s birth order years ago.
I do not care. At my house, the kids will tell you Adler was real.
My eldest believes that we are the hardest on her and need to pave the way for others. The middle child, afraid of being overlooked, is loud and boisterous. The baby doesn’t say much at all because it doesn’t have to say much. Instead, he uses facial gestures. For example, a grin lets me know that he wants me to stop calling him “the baby” because he’s too old for that now. Or maybe he wants me to get him some chilled grapes instead.
This spring my eldest marveled at the changing seasons by watching the bees graze in our garden of yellow dandelions. She explained to me that dandelion flowers are an important food source for pollinators. As she continued to tell me about the benefits of having her in our backyard, my middle child sped through the serenity like Mel Gibson in that famous scene from “Braveheart,” except my son swung a lacrosse stick over his head and yelled, “Ma! Watch!”
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With the start underway, he proceeded to chop off the heads of every weed as if he were Lionel Messi taking the winning penalty shot of a football championship game. I didn’t know what to do other than clapping enthusiastically like one of those wind-up stuffed monkeys.
For obvious reasons, the youngest was not outside. He knows I wanted someone to mow the lawn. He doesn’t want to get involved in the tedious daily chores, especially when there are two older, more able siblings around to do them. What the youngest does, however, is make an appointment with the pest and weed control company, which is still using Roundup to eradicate a supposedly unsightly garden. He doesn’t like the loud buzzing under his window either.
Now that my kids are old enough to understand the cause and effect between hunger and food, they’re pretty much on their own now that summer is here. As casually as if it were her birthright, my oldest child walks down the street to her grandparents’ house to eat. No matter what time of day, my father is busy cooking up a gourmet meal for his eldest grandson. Before getting up from the table, she says, “I love you, Grandpa,” and inevitably he rushes back to the kitchen to make her one of his famous milkshakes. She must have trained him in no time, and I find she is becoming a master strategist, one of the many skills the oldest child learns.
Food is fuel for my middle child because they are fed and have no time to cook. He makes quite a spectacular scene with his cooking skills, like the Swedish chef from the Muppets. He’s dramatic, talks non-stop, and food flies everywhere. I no longer even flinch when I find nachos, ramen, granola, or a piece of pepperoni near the couch. I tell myself these are my son’s business cards, his little “I love you” notes that he knows I’d love to receive. That’s part of his mean child charm, his approachable personality that shines through.
The youngest child handles food differently than the others. He learned to cook at an early age and meticulously showed us what he likes to eat. He can cook a steak meal like his grandpa, but often chooses to let others do the work for him. He enjoys good food, impeccable manners, and good company. We are lucky to be on his shortlist.
I’m not convinced that birth order has much to do with differences between siblings. Some things must be coincidence. However, I was the first to get up this morning and while making coffee I noticed how unusually cool it was downstairs. The front door was left wide open.
I know the culprit must be the one who is allowed to stay up past midnight and watch movies that his older siblings at his age would never even have dreamed of. I’m just thrilled that he put his empty dessert bowl by the counter and turned off the TV before he went to bed.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale.
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