506. Birth Order

Shakespeare wrote, “It is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are thus and thus.” I try to agree with that, and I try to take both credit and responsibility for who I am. But if I don’t want to, there are many ways available for refusing that credit and ducking that responsibility. Religion, philosophy, science, and many other ways of looking at life explain why we are who we are, and we can choose to use those explanations as alibis if we want to.
One such explanation has to do with birth order. I was the third child of four, and during my first seven years, I was the third of three. By the time my parents started raising me, they had already had seven years of practice raising children. I don’t know to what degree the practice had given them skill at doing the right things, and to what degree it had worn them out. I don’t know to what
degree they had gotten better at avoiding pitfalls, and to what degree my brothers had figured out how to manipulate them, and taught me how.
I haven’t read much about birth order, but I’ve spoken with people who believe that it’s a powerful force in determining what kind of people we are. Some tell me that I’m a typical youngest and then middle child, just as people who are into astrology assure me that I am a typical Leo. I’ve even had people guess that I’m a Leo; I guess my tendency to be dramatic and seek attention is considered leonine. I enjoy reading my horoscope now and then, but I don’t take it seriously. Nor do I consider birth order as important as some people do.
But studies are done, and real patterns are shown. And my decision not to learn about the findings is, in some ways, a decision not to learn what could end up being useful. I guess my decision is based on liking who I am. If I wished I were different, maybe I’d be eager to blame birth order for the characteristics I wanted changed. I don’t think it would do much good; there isn’t anything I can do about my birth order, just as I can’t decide to become a Capricorn.
Or should it have influenced the decisions my wife and I made about
having children? Should we have had Lara first, and then Katy? I don’t think there’s any way we could have arranged that. Should we have taken birth order into account as we were raising them? If we had, what would we have done differently?
I don’t mean to take any credit away from the people who study the effects of birth order. In most of my articles, I write about what I know pretty well, either from reading, conversation, or experience. But this one is more of a reaction to a field of inquiry that seems, to me, a little like a dead end. I hope I’ll get feedback, and maybe write another article based on the feedback I get.

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