Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Middle Child

With my brothers, Tom, Joe and Bill about 1955
Well, not exactly middle, but I am neither the oldest or the youngest in my large family of 13 siblings. I an fourth, actually, with three brothers ahead of me, and a whole slew of younger sisters and brothers behind me. Growing up as the oldest girl in a large family is an interesting position, but being somewhere in the midst of so many is interesting in itself.

Perhaps I credit too much to my birth order, but I've noticed a few things over the years that I believe are directly related to that position. For example, I am not one who craves the spotlight. I know, that sounds odd coming from a storyteller who is often on stage, and yet it is quite true. In a crowd, I prefer to be on the sidelines, watching the action and letting others take the limelight. I am not a competitive gamer but will cheer like anything for my team if I do play (which isn't often, believe me).

With my sisters, around 1993? Back in the perm days :)
When I am the leader of a group, a position I avoid when possible, I tend to try for consensus and will do the same work I ask others to do. As a supervisor I saw my department/employees as a team, as all of us in it together, rather than myself as leader and them as followers. Being an authoritarian was and is uncomfortable; I never think of myself as the expert on anything and am always willing to listen to other points of view.

About 1957, with Joe, Mom, baby Maggie, Mary, someone's puppet, and Judy.
So how much of this is really birth order, and how much just my personality type? Since I have never read a book about birth order I can't say for certain, but I believe it has a lot to do with my outlook and interactions with others. When I look at my sons, I see the same tendencies in my middle two; even when in leadership positions they worked with their employees/soldiers as a team, taking the authoritative role only when necessary. Getting cooperation through agreement rather than through orders seemed to be their goal. (although I have five sons, I have two that are really the "youngest" in the family, since they are 13 years apart).

1959: baby Stephen, Judy, me Joe, Tom and Bill on the back row,
and Theresa, Maggie and Mary on the front row. Still 4 more
to come before the family was complete!
Sometimes my "middle" personality works against me. I am not one to push myself forward; I do publicize my storytelling but I don't make cold calls or push venues to hire me. In a crowd, I often have trouble making myself heard and often give up the effort and just listen. Listening is good for a storyteller anyway, and I dislike shouting or talking over others just to have my say.

All 13 of us in 2002
When you think about your birth order, do you see ways your position has influenced and even perhaps hampered your career or your interactions with others? Or do you think it's all nonsense, and we are who we are regardless of our position in our families? I'm curious to hear the thoughts of others on this.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Nance said...

I do love family photos. Thanks for posting them. I am the 8th of 9 children. I usually am content to sit back and listen to all others but occasionally, once in a blue moon, I want the floor! I want the floor and will wave my arms, stand up, sit down or even whistle for 'order' so that I can talk. But don't put me on a stage; my knees will knock and I'll forget my speech.

Susan Anderson said...

I think birth order does play a part in personality style. But I think nature is even stronger.

This was such an interesting read.


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