Dear Jack: Will You and Your Sister Both Adopt the Only Child Mentality?

6 years, 1 months.

Dear Jack: Will You and Your Sister Both Adopt the Only Child Mentality?

Dear Jack,

Back in college, I was really into this book called The Birth Order Connection. It explains the theory of how our personalities are ultimately guided by what order we were born in the family.

It describes how an “only child” is different than a first-born child; but if a first-born child is at least 6 years-old when the 2nd sibling is born, both children ultimately become more like only children because those earlier formative years are not shared with another sibling of the same age.

When I Googled “traits of an only child” just now, here’s the first thing that came up:

“Only children, being firstborn themselves, tend to exhibit traits more similar to those of other firstborn children. However, only children seem to have better self-esteem and are higher achievers than children who have siblings (Brophy, 1989, p. 54).”

When your sister was born, you were about 5 and a half years-old; to be exact, 7 months shy of that 6 year-old mark. So really, you’re borderline on whether you will adopt a first born (older brother) mentality as opposed to an only child mentality.

And then same can be said for your sister, as long as no more siblings are born within the next 5 years. In theory, she may never really develop the mentality of “younger sister”. Instead, the two of you could easily both end up having that ultra-independent personality of an only child.

After all, the two of you will never really have to share your toys with each other. The two of you get to live next to each other, but always in different stages of childhood development.

Earlier this week on the drive to school, I told you, “Jack, when Holly’s your age now, you’ll be 11 years-old; you’ll be finishing up 5th grade when your sister turns 6; the age you are now.”

You laughed at the thought of it.

But that’s the reality. You are her older brother and she is your younger sister, but really the two of you may end up technically more like only children.



The Technicalities of Buffalo, New York and Louisville, Kentucky (and Middle Born Children)

If it were possible for a human being to have a sister city, mine would be Buffalo, New York, recently featured on The Office as the location of Jim and Pam’s wedding. To remove that city from the story of my life would totally change my existence. That’s my mom’s hometown. Her family moved to Alabama in 1973 when she was 15.

That’s the thing with Italians living in the South. They haven’t been here very long. Ask an Italian living in the South and as the story unfolds it is revealed that they moved only a generation ago from somewhere in the Northeast, or Chicago, or Ohio at worst. (Southerners are English, German, Irish, Scottish, African-American, and most recently, Mexican. Any nationality outside of those is exotic.)

As I researched Wikipedia to learn how the Midwest got its name (because I was annoyed that the Midwest is not really the Midwest but instead makes up the mid-central-northern area of our country), I learned that there a few cities that though they are literally not in the Midwest, they have the culture of a Midwestern city because of their proximity to that region. These cities are Louisville, KY; Eerie and Pittsburgh, PA; and fittingly for this writing, Buffalo, NY.

I wasn’t surprised by Louisville; I’ve been there enough to know that Southern accents are not common in that city. And Eerie and Pittsburgh are close enough to Ohio for me not to question. But Buffalo caught me off guard. What makes it Midwestern as opposed to Northern?

Buffalo is sandwiched in between two of the Great Lakes- Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Closeness to the Great Lakes is a Midwestern trait, whereas being near the Atlantic Ocean is a Northeastern trait. And because the city is removed from the too-close-for-comfort culture of New England and the Mid-Atlantic, it has a friendly reputation, more comparable to those Nebraska corn growers.

So it is confirmed, Buffalo is a technically a Midwestern city.

Last week while writing Manspeak, Volume 12, I refreshed my memory of the fascinating world of Birth Order and how it affects our personalities. Even if a person doesn’t know much about it, he or she can easily pick up on it and relate. So after explaining the basics of how it works, I always like to ask the person what they think my birth order is. Over 80 percent of the time, people guess that I’m a middle child.

Which is a great guess. The middle child often is artistic, laid-back, and had the worst trouble deciding on their college major (which I definitely did). But I’m not a middle child. I’m the first born child. I should be more uptight, more controlling, more motivated, and more aggressive. But I’m not. I live the life of a middle child.

So why, like Buffalo acting like a Midwestern city, do I act like a middle child?

I was raised by middle born parents, who also were raised by middle born parents. And my behavior is only encouraged, being that I married a middle born (who ironically was raised by two first-borns). When I am in a situation where I need to take charge, I can and I do. But what I prefer is to just go with the flow. Not surprisingly, it’s a middle born trait to analyze their identity and purpose.

Technically, Buffalo is a Midwestern city and I am a middle born child. And somehow that makes me wonder, if a sister city could have other siblings, would Buffalo would be a middle child too?