Birth Order Bingo

Took my son, Owen the Barbarian, to the dentist for the first time today. He's 3, but wears clothes that could fit a kindergartener. He enjoys making messes, hurling Matchbox cars and ramming his body into hard objects. He ate two entire mangoes with dinner last night. He's fond of oral hygiene only to the extent that it involves a Lightning McQueen toothbrush.

Had flashbacks to all the flipping out his his older sister has done each time we pull into the parking lot of the same South Jersey medical complex. Queen Jane had mastered the art of the meltdown by the time she started preschool. This summer, she's attending drama camp. Next summer, she'll be running one of her own.

Given the family history, I prepared for histrionics. So imagine my surprise when little big man skipped into the building and willingly walked into the inner sanctum accompanied only by a kindly hygienist. I sat speechless in the waiting room as he bounded into the exam chair without a moment's concern. If I didn't know better, I'd say he was having fun.

Academics suggest much of the sturm und drang of parenting can be traced to birth order. Each child is inherently different and who we become depends in large part on time of arrival.

Older sisters, the theory goes, are generally bossy, confident and organized, traits that could certainly be applied to the 7 year-old in my house. Firstborns also are allegedly smarter -- Norwegian researchers found they possess, on average, a three-point IQ advantage over their next sibling.

(I'm still looking for the data suggesting firstborn/big sisters are irrational and melodramatic, but to be fair, most of these websites try to stay positive.)

Younger brothers, it seems, become "the most fearless of men." They dig competition and sports and thrive on challenges. Which, I guess, would explain why Owen didn't flinch at the prospect of a stranger rooting around in his mouth with sharp objects. If he knew he could pick a prize from the treasure chest every time, he'd probably volunteer for weekly extractions.

My husband is the youngest of seven, which some would say makes him both laid back and unambitious. And me? I'm an only child. You know what they say about us.

-- Monica Yant Kinney


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