As the oldest of three kids (and the wife of the second to youngest of seven kids), I've read with some interest different theories of child birth order. Staring in college, we talked about it my developmental psychology class at LSU and I've read popular news stories about it since. Now, as the mom of three girls, I'm intrigued by it in an new way. And when I heard this story online, it especially piqued my interest, as so many people will be heading "home" to be with family for Thanksgiving.
For what it's worth, I think all of the theories they talk about in this story are right. Each kid essentially grows up in a different family, parents treat their children differently, and a certain brand of survival of the fittest figures somewhere into that as kids need to excel in different areas.
As the oldest and the only girl in my family, I know my experience growing up was vastly different from my brother Drew's, as the middle child and first boy, and Neal's, as the youngest born almost seven years after me. And as a parent, I know no matter how hard I try to be consistent, I parent my children differently. Partly, it is because they require different things, different ways of connecting, different levels of attention and different ways of receiving love and affirmation and discipline. And then it is partly because I'm different. I wasn't the same person I was when Caroline was born, nor when Charlotte was born.
As I listened to the NPR story about the polar opposite brothers, something reminded me of a piece of advice I heard a few years ago about relationships: Assume good intentions. Though that can be hard to do much of the time, it does work. It helps to remember that all people are functions of who God created them to be and all that they've encountered since that creation. My brothers, my children, the rest of my family, my friends are all shaped by their world in so many different ways and loving them often means stepping out of my own shoes and into theirs.