Second Kids Get The Shaft.
If you’ve ever done even a cursory study of birth order, then you know that where you fall in the lineup of your siblings has an undeniable effect on your personality. Numerous studies have shown that, in families with two kids, the first born tend to be type-A, control freak over achievers, who are more serious, more anxious, and less spontaneous, while second children are usually the fun, laid-back ones who march to the beat of their own drum, could care less what other people think of them, and often fail to live up to their full potential. When I worked as a high school counselor, I saw this phenomenon play out all the time. The older sibling worked her butt off to get good grades, was the president of every club and organization known to man, stayed in studying while other kids partied, stressed endlessly about getting into college, and then, ultimately, had a nervous breakdown at SAT time and scored well below what her grades predicted. Meanwhile, two years later, her younger brother would show up with a transcript full of Bs, a resumé comprised of video game-related activities, a laissez-faire attitude towards college, and then, without so much as cracking a book, would pull off an SAT score in the 95th percentile nationwide.
My husband and I, both being first children, tend to be more comfortable with the first child model, at least with regard to success. For us, success is measured quantitatively. Test scores, diplomas, positions held, salaries earned. Our younger siblings probably wouldn’t agree. For them, success has to do with where they’ve traveled, what they’ve experienced, and how often they get to hang out with friends. I would rather have a prestigious job with big responsibilities, a big salary and two weeks vacation, while my brother would rather make less money, get less recognition, and have summers off. Neither one is right or wrong – it’s just how, and who, we are.
Being that my husband and I are who we are, when we found out that I was pregnant with our second child, we were determined to turn him into a first. We agreed that we would raise him exactly the way that we had raised our daughter to that point. We would applaud every achievement, no matter how small. We would bombard him with letters and numbers from the moment he learned to talk. We would lavish him with attention. For us, and for my husband in particular, not having the drive to succeed is a fate worse than death, and we were going to instill a drive in this kid if it killed us. We were going to control the situation. We would make him care, God damn it.