Tagged birth order

For everyone who has a middle child...

Stuck In The Middle With You – From One Middle Child To Another


“I don’t love you anymore.”

These words would strike a dagger into the hearts of most parents. The child you helped bring in this world – the one who you STILL help get his shoes on EVERY TIME he leaves the house – the one you feed 2 times before you even sit down at the dinner table – your own child who you sacrifice your own needs for routinely.


These words don’t get to me – because I have said them myself – many times growing up.

You see – I am a middle child, same as my son. You can call us middles – you can throw out phrases like “middle-child syndrome,” you can try to define us, but we’re as difficult to define as irony, (Alanis Morissette is a middle child.)

So being a middle child, my heart goes out to my son. It’s not easy being a kid – and it’s really not easy being a middle child. All my old feelings I had growing with my older (good looking, football playing) brother, and my little sister (who got away with murder) they all come back when I see my son.

When I wasn’t getting beat up by my older brother, I was seeing all the things my sister got that I didn’t get at the same age. And the poundings never stopped me from sticking up to my brother- that’s gotta be some middle thing.


“You’re not my friend. And you never will be.”

Coming from one of my daughters, this would sting, of course, but only one of them can talk – and the other would never mean it, so I am safe for a while. But I hear this phrase from Asher, and my brain processes it as “Give me a break dad.”

A middle never gets the undivided attention of his parents-like my eldest did for 2 years before we had another baby. A middle never feels the unbridled joy of the last baby – the one that we, as parents, always say ‘let’s appreciate and savor this because it’s the last time we’ll do it.’


I could tell him “I understand” but that’s the last thing a middle wants to hear. I know better than that – you couldn’t possible understand.


So, in thinking about my son, and all these middle traits – I realized it’s not just about empathy for my middle son- truth be told, I am kinda proud to be a middle myself. So I came up with a top 5 qualities I see in my son that may be attributed to his birth order:

4.  Negotiation skills: When you have an older and younger sibling, your life is about negotiation.  You have to learn to talk  to get your way- and I already see my son as a master negotiator.  “I’m hungry Papa.  Chocolate has protein in it.” *nods*


3. Independence: All the times he’s playing with friends and just kind of drops back, and starts doing his own thing, I remember that I still battle the desire to be a ‘lone wolf.’ There’s just something displeasing about wanting to be with a pack sometimes – it seems like it would be fun- but it’s never as cool as you expect. I feel you son.

2. I Will Be Heard: I am glad he can express himself the way that he does. Sure, he says hurtful things, and sure he says things over and over again to emphasize his point. But, he is not sitting idly by. He has a sense of rebellion that I have always appreciated in kids – I sometimes wonder how many members of The Ramones or Sex Pistols were middle children?

Maybe it’s the middle child in me, but I decided to leave off #1 and #5 – sometimes, that’s the only ones people read in these lists.  I guess one of them might be something about being contrary.  So what?



Ever wondered about birth order and how it impacts your family?

Why Birth Order Complicates Setting the Table


The dance occurs nightly. “L,” I call to my youngest son, “come set the table. Dinner’s nearly ready.” After one or two summons, he arrives with a big smile.

“You called?” His eyes glimmer with mirth.

“Time to set the table,” he’s reminded. A pause ensues as if he’s trying to translate the message into his native tongue. The pause lengthens, and when he meets my eyes, his grin has broadened.
“Cool Papa Bell,” L says referring to the all-time great Negro League baseball player, “once stole home plate from first base.” I’m reminded that he’s evading something, but he’s so genuine, and I do love sports. Indeed, stealing home from third is quite a feat. But to do it from first base…. My musings are turning toward sports, away from household chores. Then, I snap out of it.

Ever wondered about birth order and how it impacts your family?

“L, the table,” frustration seeping into my reminder.

My boy nods, raising his hands both in surrender and in a calming gesture. I start to relax as he moves toward the cabinet to fetch the plates. Then he spins and begins a goofy dance with the counter. Hands on his head and still smiling, he wiggles his skinny hips.

“L,” I say with conviction, “SET THE TABLE!!!!!”

“Alright,” he says in a falsely soft voice, “no need to shout.” Smiling still, he gets two plates and traipses toward the table and puts them down carefully.

“That’s good, Luka,” I say trying to keep my voice steady, “but you forgot to put down the placemats, and there are four of us who eat here.”

He nods at me. I got this, Dad. He swivels his head toward my wife. “Hey Mom,” he asks with wide grin, “do you think there are grey wolves living on Mount Rainier?”

“L, SET THE FRICKIN’ TABLE!” I roar. I want to throttle him.

The Psychology of Birth Order

Such frustrating behavior could drive a father crazy. Understanding L’s motivations, I decided, would make his table-setting shenanigans less irritating. Alfred Adler (1870-1937), a Freudian psychiatrist, developed the Psychology of Birth Order in which he postulates that when one is born has an impact on one’s personality.

Could L’s being youngest explain his behavior?

Adler describes the personality of the first-born, second-born, and youngest. (He also considered the only child and twins, but that did not apply to my family). According to Adler, the first-born is reliable, conscientious, structured, cautious, controlling,and achieving. The oldest child develops the above parent-pleasing traits in an attempt to regain the undivided attention that he enjoyed before his sibling’s birth. Adler’s theory is not absolute.

My eldest is not at all cautious, for instance, but the wisdom of Adler’s paradigm still resonates. My oldest boy is very structured, conscientious, and high-achieving although I am pretty sure that he would not say that he acts thus in an effort to gain my wife’s and my undivided attention.

But as to my younger boy and his table setting— has Adler any thoughts?

He identified the following characteristics in the second born child: people-pleasing, somewhat rebellious, good friend, social and peace-maker. Youngest child characteristics include fun-loving, uncomplicated, manipulative, outgoing, attention-seeking and self-centered.

As with my older boy, my youngest does not conform totally to Adler’s traits. He is neither attention-seeking nor self-centered. Elsewhere, he conforms quite nicely to Adler’s description. He is somewhat rebellious (i.e. table setting) and has formed many strong friendships. L is social and helps to solve problems in school. True to the theory of the Psychology of Birth Order, my youngest is fun-loving, outgoing and can be manipulative. His approach to table setting backs this up nicely. He moulded the situation to get out of his task, but did so with a smile and an array of jokes.

Adler seems right on here, but I feel unsettled by the notion.

Being manipulative has a dark connotation that seems too harsh for L. He’s not a sinister puppet master pulling strings, just a smiling boy avoiding a tedious task. I’ll throw a bone Adler’s way and stick with the term manipulation.

Luckily, the Austrian psychiatrist has an explanation.

Due to his birth order, the youngest is least capable and experienced. To compensate for this fact, he develops social skills that allows him to get others to do things for him. A simplification to be sure, but the last couple of nights, during our table setting dance, I’ve looked upon L, bemused. “That’s my second born/youngest,” I’ve thought with a knowing smile.