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Stuck in the Middle!

Posted Wednesday, April 22, 2009, at 8:45 PM

My middle child Matthew plays Easter croquet with my soon-to-be-three-year-old grandson Evan. I think this was the only photo that didn't have a dog in it, trying to steal the balls.
A couple of blogs ago, one of my readers suggested I write about my middle child. Let's see if I can do that without embarrassing him. I've always been interested in the influence of birth order, so I was delighted several years ago, when birth-order expert Larry Deaton spoke to us at several MSTA conferences.

You guys can help me out on this, but these are some of the characteristics I've noticed about the middle child (mine, in particular):

* Their friends seem to be inordinately important to them. When Matthew was, I think, in about the fourth grade, I agreed to have a birthday party for him. I soon learned that middle children have a LOT of friends. "Pick out a couple of your best friends," I said. Oh, yeah -- I had to transport 8 wild "best friends" out to our place, where they charged like a wild herd of elephants all over the farm, stampeding the cattle and sending all the chickens scurrying for cover. I could track their whereabouts by simply standing on the front porch and listening.

* They aren't picky. For most of his early life, my middle son was fine with whatever happened around our place, with whatever food he had to eat (as long as it was peanut butter).

* They're easy-going. Everybody likes Matthew - They always have. He doesn't even have to say a word - in fact, he usually doesn't. He just smiles and listens, and his green eyes say, "I understand."

* Middle children are "coachable" - or, at least, mine was in junior high and high school. When you tell him something, he listens and remembers. His dad would never have spent hours with him in at the old gym, teaching him basketball, if the boy hadn't listened. His dad, a middle child himself, felt they were neglected. He made sure Pooh never was.

* They're dependable. Larry Deaton says that the youngest child is the entertainer, and the oldest is the organizer and giver-of-orders, but leave it to the middle child to be there when you need him. I know that I could never live out here in the Tillman Outback without my middle child's support. He's the one I call when there's trouble. We sit on the front porch and talk about whether the roof or the gutters need replacing, whether I should buy a tractor and bush hog, whether I should get rid of the goats (which I did)...all the really important things in life. I taught him to drive when he was eleven. I'm not kidding - He was big for his age, and - like I said - he paid attention and watched everything. I had a little 1986 Dodge Colt Vista with a standard transmission. I let him drive in second gear until he got the knack, and when he went to get his license, it was a walk in the park!

* The best thing about my middle child? He and his lovely wife Laura have given me a little mini-Matthew, who will be three years old in June!!

From the green hills of the Tillman Outback at the Edge of Civilization, this is your Country Life reporter, Madeline, signing off on the first truly gorgeous day of the summer!

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Birth-order is fascinating! According to birth-order marriage wisdom, you should never marry a last-born if you are a last-born. And, if I'm any example, first-borns are NOT attracted to last-borns. (What babies!) I've known so many last-born whiners.

However, the whole system is set on its ear if there's more than about ten years difference between siblings. Other factors throw it off, too - such as "first-born girl," or "last-born boy." "Only" children are a bit tricky to figure into the equation, too. I personally don't see how only children could be as well-rounded and balanced as those with siblings, but according to the figures, the only child is often very well-adjusted. Doesn't make sense, does it??

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Apr 23, 2009, at 9:09 PM

MD, All.. When you have seven years between yourself and your sibling(brother), and your Dad calls you from the hospital and asks you "What do you want to name your little brother??" and your response sticks!!!!, THAT IS DEFINITELY A BONDING WHICH WILL NEVER GO AWAY!!! Lil Bro and his brood have done us proud, Patti and Bobby have given us nine little Roussel's!! Robbie, the oldest spent two tours in Iraq as a combat medic with the 1st Armor Div..all of the kids, except Aubrey, the oldest girl, have done two year missions for the church, which leaves Megan, the youngest, and Tory, my birthday niece, (12-15), who will always be our baby girl, at home in Gilbert... Bob and Patti have accomplished more than most would ever think of, and have a grand family forever.. I would not think that my brother and his fold would be anything but grand in the eyes of our ancestors in the Bootheel, J'm'appelle, Roussel-Dupre!!...molater as the world turns....kk

-- Posted by kkcaver47 on Fri, Apr 24, 2009, at 12:23 AM

I have been thinking about this since this blog was posted. Dissecting my family was fun. Here's what I came up with.

My older brother does love to give orders and be in charge of things. We have an older sister who was not raised with us. She too, however loves to tell folks what to do. That makes me the 'baby' or last-born. I don't think I am a whiner however my siblings may disagree. (hehehe) I always saw myself as willing to do my fair share and then some. I tend to be a people pleaser. I try to do the 'right' thing and cannot stand to think that someone is upset or mad at me. Once I was old enough to start earning my own money by babysitting and waitressing my mom's philosophy on things was 'if you want it, you buy it' whether it was clothes, shoes, jewelry (including my class ring), etc. When it is 'your' money you tend to be a bit pickier as to what you spend it on. There was no need to whine. It didn't work.

My husband is also a last-born. He has two brothers, three step sisters, and a step brother. My husband was two years old when they all became a family. There is a seven year age difference between him and his oldest sibling. He does have a younger half sister and very much younger adopted brother who were raised in another household. He did not see them often. I therefore still consider him a last-born. I will say his oldest sister acts as the 'mother' of the family since his step mom passed away. The oldest sister hosts family gatherings and keeps in touch the most. My husband has never struck me as a whiner. He has always been a hard worker and easy to get along with.

As for our children...my husband has a son from a previous relationship and we have two daughters. I don't think we can say our oldest daughter is 'stuck in the middle' because her brother only stays with us through the summer. Not to mention, she was the 'baby' until she was almost nine years old. The older children are calm, easy going, and get along well with others. The 'baby' loves to steal the show, wants all of the attention, is very outgoing, and loves to be around ALL of her friends. The older two tend to be quiet and the 'baby' talks nonstop.

As for marriage...this last-born is happily married to a last-born. We will celebrate our 16th Anniversary in May.

-- Posted by fun2teach on Fri, Apr 24, 2009, at 9:11 PM

I loved "The Birth Order Book!" (I love books, remember?) My favorite story from Larry Deaton was a story he told in a TV interview. He said he was conducting a seminar on the birth order in a huge hotel ballroom. To begin, he said, he asked all the first-borns to gather in the area to his left, the middle-borns to gather in the center area, and the babies to gather to his right.

He said that, before he could even get the instructions out, the first-borns had moved their chairs to the group, put them in a circle, and had chosen a leader. The middle-borns were beginning to move their chairs and apologizing to everyone for the noise or inconvenience.

The babies were still standing there talking to each other, waiting for someone to come get their chairs!!

Oh, so true! My sister is the leader of our family. So responsible, so stable and dependable. Always there for you. My brother was the middle child--easy going, laid back.

I'm the baby. My husband says I don't like to go to funerals because I can't be the center of attention. That pretty much says it all!

I am a baby married to a middle-child who actually took over the first-born duties because he and his sister were so close in age.

-- Posted by lovebooks on Sat, Apr 25, 2009, at 8:21 AM

Well, we throw those stats in all directions. I am the baby, yes I am the funny one--the entertainer. My sister is the one who did whatever anybody else wanted her to do--the people pleaser, the first child. Our middle child brother doesn't fit any description of the typical sibling. He is hard-headed, listens to no one, takes care of himself first, and he tends to avoid the rest of us. It is easier to ignore us than to talk to us. This is the way the adult roles unfolded for us.

My husband and I are both the youngest in three-child families. We can't imagine being married to anyone else, even after 39 years. I don't know why it worked for us, but it did. I guess we're both entertainers--trying to keep each other happy.

-- Posted by GONENOW on Sat, Apr 25, 2009, at 3:09 PM
Madeline DeJournett's response:
I had a feeling my teacher buddies could fill in the details on this birth-order topic! Haha! I'm wondering if Larry Deaton has a book on the topic? I need to google him and find out! I would love to get my hands on the information in that cardboard box of clippings he brought to his seminars! He had the most fascinating birth-order details about the Presidents and other politicians!

My middle son also had a healthy respect for machines at an early age, occasioned by his trip down the hill into our pond, when his older brother shifted the truck out of gear. Matthew was only three; Todd was about seven (should have known better). Todd jumped out, but Matthew, who was standing behind the cab, rode it all the way! Fortunately, the pond wasn't deep, and the truck went in backwards, so I was able to wade in, thigh-deep, and get him out!

Ever since I can remember, he's watched things like gas gauges, speedometers, and gear shifts. "Don't you think we should stop at this gas station, mom?"

From the beginning, he made the rounds of the machines at Sam's, checking the coin returns to see if anyone left any money. They never had to teach him about money at school, using those little cardboard coins. I think he was born, knowing the difference between a quarter and a dime!

MD, I have no doubt the wonderful qualities of your "middle" son are in large part due to his exceptional upbringing, but they have nothing to do with with the hocus pocus of birth order ... which has as much scientific basis as astrology, reading tea leaves, and the fortune in a Chinese cookie. I like Chinese cookies as much as the next person. But if a fortune says, "You will meet a person with a pimple on their nose.", it is the law of probability that explains why it is that if you carefully examine the nose of every person you encounter that sure enough you'll find one that has a pimple on it!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sat, Apr 25, 2009, at 6:22 PM

It was Kevin Leman who told the story about the seminar and the first-borns, middles, and babies. He wrote "The Birth Order Book" and that's who I thought you were talking about.


-- Posted by lovebooks on Sat, Apr 25, 2009, at 8:23 PM

I have read a few articles on birth order, but not a book. I am definitely going to head to the book store!

I wonder if only children are well adjusted due to seeking out others to be with? My oldest daughter's best friend is an only child. Her parents have always made sure that she was involved in various organizations and activities with other children her age. She also spends a lot of time with friends. She does appear to be very well adjusted.

-- Posted by fun2teach on Sat, Apr 25, 2009, at 8:45 PM

Thanks, lovebooks! That's just what I'm looking for! Oops! That is just the book "for which I am looking"! Doesn't correct English sound stilted sometimes?? I never have liked the "correct" pronunciation of "schedule," which I pronounce "skedule." One of my English cohorts of the past - a head of the department - said it was "sh-ed-u-al" with that "shhhh" sound at the beginning. I've since heard that her pronunciation is correct, but I think it's more a British version.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Apr 26, 2009, at 6:56 AM

I always thought that "only" children profited from all their parents' attention, but I'm not sure when that makes them "well-balanced" and when it makes them "spoiled."

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Apr 26, 2009, at 7:00 AM

cute picture.

The only child in a family turns out to be a very special child. Most only children turn out very well rounded and very well mannered.

The order of the birth of a child really does not matter. I am an older child married to the baby of the family and let me tell you the baby is much more mature than the oldest child.

-- Posted by starry_056 on Tue, Apr 28, 2009, at 12:57 PM

An aunt had three children by one man, three more by another, all two years apart, then married a third man who raised all six kids as his own. The three younger and three older children shared personality traits distinctly different than their siblings -- with the only identifiable difference being their birth father's genes.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Tue, Apr 28, 2009, at 2:29 PM

Most families, if asked about the traits of the siblings, would line right up with Kevin Leman's descriptions in his book. It's actually amazing how birth order does actually affect the personalities of children!

-- Posted by lovebooks on Thu, Apr 30, 2009, at 4:29 PM

Haha! I ordered Leman's book on Amazon.com, lovebooks! It's out of print, but I got a very nice, like-hew copy, which came TODAY!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Apr 30, 2009, at 9:56 PM

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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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