How Old Is The Boy From Stuck In The Middle Eldest Child Syndrome – Are You What Your Parents Have Made You?

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Eldest Child Syndrome – Are You What Your Parents Have Made You?

Do you have a people-loving personality? Have you ever been in a situation where you start to wonder if other people’s expectations of you exceed your ability or willingness to meet them? Of course you are! Stupid question – unless you’re one of those super-people who can say no without saying no.

BIRTH ORDER AND ME

The thing is, there’s a limit to what you can do, right? I belong to the sandwich generation, so I also have young grandchildren that I take care of twice a week while my daughter teaches, and parents, with various health problems, who also need some support. Besides that, I share a job with my husband – that’s how we make a living – and I write.

When I came down with the ‘Female Flu’ a few weeks ago (so much worse than the Man Flu variety, because you have to keep going), I was able to keep most of my balls in the air, but some just had to be dropped. So when I realized that I was expected to take on a family obligation during the weekend when I could otherwise give myself some time to recharge my batteries, I wasn’t too thrilled. I know some people know how to say no without saying no. I’m just not one of them. In addition, I am in the unenviable position of being the first born child.

SIBLING POSITION

According to the website Wikipedia, one of the first people to suggest that birth order has an influence on personality was the Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler. A contemporary of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, he argued that the way each of us approaches the major aspects of life – friendship, love and work – greatly affects our birth order in the family.

Now I know there are those who passionately believe in first child syndrome and others who feel there is nothing wrong with it. Advocates identify the following traits in the oldest child in the family, saying they are:

  1. High achievers
  2. Good leaders
  3. Conscientious
  4. Self-sufficient
  5. Perfectionists
  6. Eager to please
  7. They have high expectations of themselves
  8. Feel the responsibility for the well-being and harmony of the family
  9. Low self-esteem (because I can’t live up to expectations)
  10. They are sensitive and need constant reassurance

PEOPLE PLEASER?

If you are a first-born child, do you adhere to those characteristics? For example, do you have a people-loving personality? Do you have high expectations of yourself? Do you constantly need reassurance that you are fulfilling what is expected of you?

In my opinion, there are arguments for and against. The distance between the brothers must play a role, surely? If he’s the oldest at school, or left home before the next one comes, then what? The eldest would have been an only child before entering school and, in fact, would have continued in that vein. And what if there is a different combination of genders? Let’s say a girl is followed by several boys. Or vice versa: several girls, followed by one boy? I can’t believe that the same principles apply to all scenarios.

ARE ALL THE OLDEST CHILDREN HIGH ACHIEVERS?

It seems to be widely accepted that the first baby born into a family will grow up with a tendency to be analytical, methodical and a high achiever. Whether every firstborn adheres to these attributes is debatable, not least because I, as a firstborn, exhibit none of these traits. Creative, naturally flexible and spontaneous (although I disciplined myself to be tidy where I would otherwise have caused grief) my only achievement was a #4 bestseller – and it snuck up on me unawares! The Familyrap website continues with the following statement this child of control values and once again this is the complete opposite of my personality. Maybe my parents are not telling me something, and I’m not actually the oldest child in our family?

RESPONSIBLE I certainly never had the desire to be the leader of anything! As an author, my interests and aspirations are introverted. However, I could describe myself as self-sufficient, conscientious, a perfectionist and have high expectations of myself – especially when it comes to feeling responsible for the well-being and harmony of my family. The plaster cast mentality probably applies to many women. For me, it’s – well – kind of stuck in my personality. If someone is hurt or in trouble, I guess I see myself as the one who has to take care and cover the wound!

That’s why it’s so hard for me to say no and think no. You see, it doesn’t live up to people’s expectations of me. Nor, of course, mine.

UNDERSTANDING BROTHER RIVALRY

I suspect that the whole eldest child syndrome is, in fact, the result of how the first-born are treated in the family and what are the expectations of them. ‘Now be a good boy/girl and look after your little brother/sister’ is a common mantra. My parents told me – once I tried to stand up for something I believed in, which was contrary to what they asked me to do – that my consent was taken as read. They simply never expected me to stand up to them and were shocked and hurt that I should do so.

All of this leads me to believe that the oldest child syndrome has less to do with the innate personality of the first-born child, and more to do with the conditioning of parents and other adults. Maybe if we look at middle child syndrome next week it will reveal more?

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