I had the very amazing and lucky opportunity to keep my niece overnight last night. She is a year younger than Noah and completely the little girl I've always dreamed of. It's important to note, too, the rather unusual family situation I generally avoid talking about here because it's just so insanely complicated and I hate people's reactions. My brother married my husband's sister. NO IT IS NOT INCEST. Yes, we are "keeping it in the family." You're so funny, original, and clever.
This means my niece is notably similar to my own children, both in appearance and personality, and therefore notably similar to me. This means I adore her.
Complicated situation: EXPLAINED.
This morning after everyone woke up and had received their favorite flavor PopTart (oh great good fortune, my niece L.'s favorite flavor is the one I just bought that my boys DIDN'T like--she must get that from her mother, I guess), we turned on Aladdin and settled in for a nice calm Monday morning. Joey was in "the Big Chair," and L. and I were cuddling on the couch when Noah sidled up to me, all frowny and big-eyed.
"What's wrong, babe?" I said, rubbing his back.
He was not comforted. His eyes were all round and his chin aquiver. "Where should I sit?" he said.
"How 'bout with Joey?"
He looked dubiously at Joey and the mountain of pillows taking up the rest of the space on the Big Chair. "There's no ROOM."
I knew what this was about, but wanted to be careful to not make a big deal of it. L. doesn't stay with us all the time, so I didn't feel it needed to be an issue. I leaned over and whispered quietly, "You know you're my special guy, right?"
Noah frowned and his forehead puckered. "No I DON'T," he said. "Joey is the oldest and first and L. is the little one and I'm...I'm just...middle."
I felt horrible. I talked to my sister not long after this happened, expecting her to give a big long, 'Awwwwww,' like the one that had moaned in my own head, but instead she got all huffy about it. "Birth order is just an excuse people give," she'd said. Or maybe she snapped. Incidentally, she's an oldest.
Regardless, I had a whole long conversation with the pediatrician about this at Noah's last visit, however. I have two that I really like in the practice we go to, and this one is the older, male doctor. I usually see the younger woman doctor because I think she gets me, but as my boys grow bigger I recognize they probably feel more comfortable seeing someone who, well, gets them. Anyway, the doctor and I were discussing Noah's issues with talking-back and having tantrums, and the doctor said, "He is second, and he is dealing with everything that brings."
I have loved a lot of second-borns. There's my brother, and also interesting, his wife and my double sister-in-law. My sister's daughter Gracie is a total second-born. What I find most significant about all of them is how completely different they are from their older, first-born siblings. Especially Joey and Noah. Joey is our rule-follower, our straight-and-narrow, and Noah is...well, as we say in our house, Noah is Noah. He will not be bent or molded to be anybody else. And frankly, I think that's pretty awesome.
Like me, Noah is also the youngest in our house. Still, I think that being youngest and being second is not the same as being youngest and third. Especially in my house, I was youngest, third by several years, and also a SURPRISE (an announcement my mother likes to make loudly at social events). Oh, and I was a girl. There's also that.
I do think there is something to the idea that we are who we are, we will be who we will be, but how can all these other factors NOT affect us? Our personality will be put up against these things day after day, forcing us to deal with specific personality issues unique to us. Family, and how we fit into it, kind of what gives us all our quirks and issues, right? The normal bit of crazy we all carry around with us and hope no one sees? For me, I deal with the irrational fear of not measuring up--not even being a contender to measure up--and being left behind, because my entire youth centered around my brother and sister being big enough and smart enough while I got left with my mom. Always, I was too little or too young or too...something.
For Noah, my little Me-Too? I know we've only reached the tip of a rather massive iceberg. He's got stubbornness issues from both sides of the family, he's off-the-charts intelligent (well he is), and desperate to find romance (a weird quirk I can't explain with birth order or family roles). In addition, he loves his big brother more than anything--where Joey loves me more than anything--and wants to have all the glory and attention Joey receives for things for having simply done them, since he is first.
I hope Noah will see, sooner than later--and I know it's my job to help him on this path--that the glory and praise he receives will probably mean much more than any Joey gets. Not that Joey isn't wonderful, he is, but we tend to dote on minor achievements, from rolling over in infancy to simply getting off the bus at the end of the school day, things that just mean to us we have a child. I think Noah will earn his praise more for talent and merit, because it won't be simply that's he done something. It will be that he, most assuredly, will have done something great.
I just hope it's not Voldemort/Darth Vader great.