23 July 2008

Nature, nurture, nirvana

Back in junior high, which I think is called Middle School these days, I remember having to write a report where the teacher had to insist only one student, typically a girl, got to write her report on the Amish and one student got to write on birth order. For some reason, those were the "hot topics" of the day. Everyone wanted to write their report on the Amish.

The rest of us unlucky folks had to rack our brains for some other topic. That was the hard part, finding something to write about. Contrarian that I was, I remember doing my report on psychokinesis. Uri Geller, I believe, was doing his spoon bending thing during this time, so that must've been where I picked it up from. I felt a little like Wednesday Addams compared to the girls writing on the Amish, but at least I learned something new instead of checking out the same worn copies on the Amish from the library and writing the same report we had heard every couple of weeks.

My best friend was the seventh of eight kids. She always wanted to write the report on birth order. And, her family was a text book case of birth order: very successful first born, troubled middle group and prima donna younger kids. I think she wanted to use the "birth order" argument to ward off anyone's expectations. Her older siblings were, in order of birth, a doctor, a dentist, an electrical engineer, a hospital administrator, a drop-out-druggie, and an auto mechanic. I think she was hoping to make the argument that the most her parents could expect from her, being down at the end of the birth order spectrum, was waitress/cosmetology school drop out. Fortunately, her parents were of a generation prior to all the psychological insight of birth order and kept their expectations high.

Once again, the birth order argument is in the news. I even heard Dr. Ray mention it the other day and I had to groan. I missed what Dr. Ray had said on the topic (other than to hear him mocking it), so checked it out on the internet. Now the powers that be are telling us that our marriages will succeed or fail based on our birth order and that of our spouse. Not really anything new.

I'm a first born, so is my husband. According to all the research, it's a recipe for disaster. We should've signed a pre-nup. What were we thinking? You can't just rush into marriage without considering birth order -- what wanton and reckless disregard for research. There ought to be a law or at least we should've been in some intensive counseling prior to saying "I do." I even think canon law must address this some where.

My problem with this is, just like in the case with my friend, these notions remove personal responsibility from the equation. They remove God and free will. Just because I'm a first born doesn't mean I have to, ipso facto in triplicate, be in charge and clash with my husband who is also, by his birth order dictated nature, clamoring to be in charge. Funny how the idea of "being in charge" never has come up in the nearly 20 years we've been married. God knows it hasn't been a cake walk all those years, but I would say that it has been especially harmonious in the areas we are "supposed" to have problems. Getting my husband to clean the garage, well, those are areas I just have to bite my lip and offer up.

Today, it's hard to identify "birth order." Families just aren't having enough kids to have eldest, middle and youngest labels. Now what? Kids have to take on multiple roles? My son is an upper with middle child tendencies? My daughter is middle-youngest?

Personally, I think a lot of this is a character issue. I share a lot of traits with first borns, I'm a recovering perfectionist and a people pleaser, but I also know that I'm called to be a saint regardless of my birth order. I seriously doubt that God is going to reduce anyone's time in Purgatory because, "Oh my, I see you were a middle child. Poor thing. That's just so hard and unfair."

And, according to the article, it is a good thing Jesus never married, being an only child. Divorce court for sure.


ArchAngel's Advocate said...

I've always thought we 1st borns should have a special place in Heaven, and I should have an even more special place as I'm the 1st born of 1st borns (that's right, both my parents were 1st borns). I like to say that growing up I got away with nothin'; my 2 brothers got them after I had broken them in as parents.
So here's to us 1st borns, may all our problems be blamed on our parents (and if you bought this I'll sell you some swamp land in Arizon, cheap).

swissmiss said...

First borns do have a special place and it has nothing to do with the modern notions of birth order. First borns are special, it says so in the bible!! Mom and dad may not have had favorites, but God does and it's first-borns!

gemoftheocean said...

Ah.....but not always.... King David, then there's the story of Manasseh and Esau.... etc.

Sometimes things are done out of order.

BTW, I'm an "only" and onlies tend to be "uber first borns."

ArchAngel's Advocate said...

And I thought "only's" were a variant of "outies".

And Swiss, we have to be careful as God has a history of whacking 1st borns (that nasty bit of Passover schtick).

swissmiss said...

I know there are oodles of exceptions, but usually only when the first born was a schmuck.

And, God only whacks first born males. First born girls are even more special :)

swissmiss said...

Forgot to mention, AA, I'm about 25% done with The Source. It's taking me awhile. Have to pay attention instead of just cruise through it like most of the junk I read. I'm on the Hoopoe Bird chapter. Can't believe the knowledge that was required to write this book...impressive. I do think Michener is a bit off in some things, mostly due to his perspective. Thanks for recommending it!

ArchAngel's Advocate said...

Girls don't get whacked because they don't count (maybe why they don't do well in Math! yeh, a MCP sterotype...) :-P

Hoopoe is a neat character (and the tunnel he's building uses they methodology they think King Hezekiah used in Jerusalem!). Its also interesting how Mitchner uses all the characters & events to show how one grew out of the preceeding elements (and how Scriture builds in the same manner).

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Firstborn girls are always the smartest, prettiest, and super-coolest kind of children.

Got a guess where I fit in among the 6 of us?

Hey, I'm reading Mitchner right now too. Dad tuned me into him when I was in high school. Mitchner was one of the very few fiction writers my dad would read. Dad really loved to pass on his knowledge and love of reading. Especially to his FAVORITE and most wanted child.