Sucks to be the middle kid. (The “truest” thing you’ll ever read about Birth Order.)


If you’re a parent to multiple kids, or were ever a sibling yourself, you probably intuitively know something about birth order and personality. Wait. Scratch that. Let me begin this post instead with:

If you are married to someone who has a different birth order than yourself, you may have, on occasion, through gritted teeth and sweaty-rage, been confronted with the acknowledgement that there is something annoyingly different about your spouse’s values and behaviors. Like, for example, you may be a spontaneous and rebellious middle child, and your oldest-sibling-husband (read: responsible AF.) may wonder aloud whether the children are adequately nourished and also whether you might be inviting ants in the living room when he finds out the kids wore ferns in their hair and ate hummus for dinner while lounging on the floor, listening to lute music, and pretending to be Roman. For example.

Anyway.

Why does the oldest child generally end up secure, responsible, DRIVEN, and conscientious? Why on EARTH do the middle children of the world care so damn much what others think while also maintaining a rebellious, independent streak, and also struggle with forming an identity while voicing themselves as outspokenly as can be? And why does the youngest child often end up so casually easy-going, independent, and uncomplicated? (Damn you, youngest child, all ridiculously entrepreneurially successful while your siblings obsess and second-guess themselves into a frenzy. Anyway.)

Well, I’m about to tell you why. Here, depicted within 6 simple examples, is why personalities are as they are, as influenced by formative life experiences, according to birth order:

Birth order and first birthday:

Oldest: Interview three professional photographers and schedule bounce house and ponies to arrive in a timeline according to most-recent line-graph-depiction of nap schedule.

Middle: Offer three presents for the birthday boy and one for his brother. The magician cost $100, so instead have uncle Frank draw smiley faces on balloons from the dollar store.

Youngest: Pick up a cupcake from the gas station on your way home from work, three days after his birthday passed, because the other kids had colds on his actual birthday. Take a picture of him wearing a saggy diaper, finding pure imaginative joy in his only birthday present, the 7-11 receipt.

Birth order and Swim lessons:

Oldest: Interview three instructors for private lessons, asking each one of they are familiar with the Emily Regalia method and its application to learning and human motivation. Bribe away his fears with stickers, praise, and a monogrammed towel that says “Mommy’s little champion.”

Middle: put him in group lessons at the place around the corner from oldest’s piano lessons because convenient. Don’t forget to bring  his brother’s hand-me-down goggles, and every time he says he’s afraid of the water, refer to older sibling’s behaviors: Your brother’s not afraid! Look at Junior put his face in! See? Isn’t Junior brave?

Youngest: Put swimmies on his arms in May, and refrain from blowing any additional air into them as the months go by. Make a joke to your husband that as the floatation devices naturally deflate, your kid will either sink or swim, and chuckle, satisfied by your own dark wit. When your child asks to do the community pool swim test in July, shrug and say, “Why not? I mean there’s a lifeguard somewhere around here.”

Birth order and lunch:

Oldest: Low sodium boars head on whole grain, with a side of carrots carved into the shapes of Lego ninjas.

Middle: A microwaved corn-dog with a side of Nutella, and four pieces of broccoli that are obviously strictly for plate decoration.

Youngest: A gogurt and some Teddy Grahams that you found poured out on the passenger seat of your car. And, if he has a craving for something salty: Sure you can lick the play dough that you found stuck to the inside of the window.

Birth order and Sex Ed: 

Oldest: Five seconds after your three year old asks where babies come from, panic and scour Amazon for the best-reviewed book on the subject. Practice saying “vagina”out loud in front of the mirror with a straight face, because you don’t want him to think it is a shameful or silly matter. Then, intentionally make breakfast for dinner so that you can smoothly incorporate “eggs and sperm” into the evening conversation. (Because you wouldn’t want Junior getting misinformation from his preschool buddies and ultimately becoming a teen-dad-with-herpies statistic.)

Middle child: when he asks where babies come from, mumble that that the doctor helps get the baby out of mom’s belly, before returning to your Buzzfeed article. When he asks follow-up information on how babies get in there, pretend you thought he asked you to turn on Bubble Guppies, and vow to revisit the conversation by the time he’s in middle school.

Youngest: When he asks how babies are made, tell him it has to do with a man’s wiener and a woman’s tinkie, and if you want to be grossed out, ask your brothers to show you the pictures in that big yellow book with the black writing.

Birth Order and School:

Oldest: Write daily emails to Junior’s kindergarten teacher, inquiring as to his reading level progression and social-emotional functioning. Mid-year, notice that he sometimes reverses his “b’s” and “d’s” and he sometimes hits when he’s angry, so immediately get him evaluated by an educational pediatric psychologist.

Middle: Tell your beloved child that you just want him to try his best, and that’s all that matters. Let your eyes say the rest: Except when it takes you longer to learn something than it took your brother. Then mommy obsessively panics.

Youngest: Discover the crumpled sign-up form for parent-teacher conferences, at the bottom of his back pack, two months after conferences were held.  Shout into the next room, “Jimmy? Is school going good this year with Ms. Whatsername?,” and go back to bedazzling your oldest’s school play costume when you hear a response that you’re pretty sure is “yup.”

Birth order and Babysitters:

Oldest: Background check, and a list of 10 pre-written interview questions which are statistically analyzed and weighted based on their importance. Definitely don’t hire the lady that failed to submit her high school transcripts as requested.

Middle: Meh. Continue to use babysitter who was carefully selected on the basis of her instant bond with older brother, even if she doesn’t have infant experience and leaves middle child in his diaper for six hours straight.

Youngest: The woman you met on Craigslist goes by the name of Large Marge, has demonic red eyes and drives a big rig. But she will watch three kids on a Saturday night, sooooo.

Birth order and Chores:

Oldest: Stock up on behavior charts and prizes from the dollar store, because junior needs to know he did a great job picking up his toys.

Middle: You can earn stickers too, and try not to let all those stars next to brother’s name or the fact that I sometimes forget to notice your effort, make you feel inferior. I mean Mommy’s not used to consistent behavioral reinforcement with TWO kids.

Youngest: Clean your room or don’t clean your room. Whatevs, as long as you close the door when Gramma comes over. I mean, your home-built science lab and invention workshop shouldn’t be disturbed, no matter how it smells.

*******

From, the therapist who says this is mostly tongue and cheek, because there are always exceptions to birth order theories and also the length of time between children, and many other factors matter; And also I know a certain oh-so-modest middle child who often announces that he KNOWS he is the favorite, to EVERYONE, and also, yes, I am aware that some families have more or less than three offspring.

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