Was Norman Bates Second Born?

I came across a study recently that caught my attention. Not one to be overly concerned about birth order, I normally wouldn’t even bother to read the article that cited the study. But here was the headline:


So, for obvious reasons, I felt this story about birth order warranted a gander from this second born kid.

It wasn’t even like the story was out of National Enquirer. It came from National Public Radio, and the study was conducted by some economists from MIT (all undoubtedly either bossy first-borns or youngest kids looking for attention). The study looked at second borns in Florida and Denmark. Florida and Denmark? I wonder why they didn’t look at second borns in South Dakota and Romania, or maybe Kentucky and the Netherlands. Why did they pick Florida and Denmark? But I am getting distracted.

Apparently these second-born Floridians and Danes are somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 40 percent more likely to commit serious crimes or cause other kinds of unlawful mayhem. While first-borns have higher IQs, perform better in school, and earn higher salaries, second borns are earning crappy grades and barely making a living.

The reason for this apparent contrast according to these first-born economists? Parents are focusing all of their attention on their first-born child and sending the second born kid out to search for scraps. Just be home before dark so that you don’t disturb your brother or sister. Well, I might be exaggerating their findings a bit. But the gist of what I just said is true. They say the parents are less vigilant with their second-born child because they want to make sure their first born prince or princess is excelling in school, taking music lessons from a maestro, and being tutored by an MIT economist. Again, I might be exaggerating a bit.

But this part is true: The study author said that “the role models of the eldest child are his or her doting parents while the role model for the second-born is a spoiled older sibling.”

While I can’t vouch for every second born in the world, I can tell you unequivocally that I AM NOT A CRIMINAL. Despite my blog post on Monday about how I am a pretty good liar, I am unceasingly honest unless there is a surprise party involved or someone asks me if these pants make them look fat. When I applied for a job at Circle K in Denver when I was 20 years old, I had to take a lie detector test. (Now that I think about it, I wonder if that test was only given to second borns….). Anyway, I passed with flying colors. They even directly asked “Have you ever stolen anything while at work?”. I could quite honestly answer no to that question. It’s true that up until that point, I had worked only for my dad at the bakery and he would have kicked my butt if I had stolen money (how are we going to pay for your older sister’s ballet lessons from Anna Pavlova if you steal money from us?)

And I certainly have never killed anyone. The closest I have ever come was when I chased my sister Jen around the house with a butcher knife when I was 10 and she was 6. Perhaps I’m lucky that she ran so fast or I might be supporting the MIT first-borns’ clinical study results. But since the study didn’t say anything about third-borns, I can only assume that they are more likely to be killed by their second born sibling, and perhaps deserve it.

The headline for the next clinical study conducted by MIT will be:


Just sayin’…..

And, for the record, here are faces of some of my favorite second-borns, none of whom are criminals…..

Alastair, Mylee, Micah — all second borns. Well, technically Mylee is a third-born, but her oldest sibling is 15 years older. I think she counts as a second born.

Bec’s second-born Kate (Jojo), Dave’s second-born Kacy, and Jen’s second born Benjamin Joseph. No criminals.

Oh, and two really good second borns. Neither Bill nor Lilly have a criminal record.

I could go on and on…but I won’t. I have to run to the store and steal some Italian sausage.

The Sodbuster’s Apprentice

This summer, for the first time in many years, Bill isn’t mowing our lawn himself. He had a lawn service mow for a number of years when we first moved into the house. It made sense because he worked full time, as did I. Our lawn is big and takes quite a while to mow. He could think of better things to do with his weekends.

But once he retired – well, semi-retired at any rate – it occurred to him one day that it made no sense to go to a gym and walk on a treadmill when he could be walking around the yard with a lawn mower. Hence, he began mowing himself.

But this summer, as my readers know, he is working on the family room remodel. Working and working and working. So when our granddaughter Adelaide came around sniffing for work that paid cash money, I persuaded him to turn over the gas can, as it were. So every Sunday, like clockwork, Addie has come and mowed the lawn without complaint. She is paid twenty-five bucks and any ice cream she can find in our freezer, and she can almost always find some.  In fact, the reality of ice cream being in the freezer is more certain than Nana remembering to get cash to pay her. Don’t fret, y’all. I am current with my payment and she doesn’t charge a late fee.

But yesterday, when the doorbell rang, I answered it to find both Addie and Dagny standing with smiles on their faces. Hi Nana, they said. We came to mow your lawn. Wait, what?

The two of them traipsed back to the shed, accompanied by Papa to ensure that there were no foxes or raccoons to attack them. (Because, yes, yesterday morning there was a raccoon on our patio looking for food. We are used to the foxes, who have returned in full force. But we haven’t seen a raccoon in our back yard for probably 20 years. Our backyard animal kingdom is starting to make the squirrels look good, though admittedly the squirrels have made themselves scarce since the return of the foxes.)

I presumed Dagny would sit on the patio drinking tonic water (her beverage of choice at my house; go figure) and playing with the iPad. But pretty soon, Bill announced that Addie had an apprentice. And sure enough, Addie had Dagny doing the mowing while she gave instructions.

It was seriously like watching a combination of Tom Sawyer and General Patton. Mowing is so much fun, you should try it, and DO WHAT I SAY …

I’m not one much for placing a lot of value on birth order. I believe there are too many elements that can influence the nature v. nurture theory. Gender, years between children, only boy or only girl, etc. But there are definitely traits that first-borns have — i.e. perfectionist, natural leader, ambitious, — and Addie has them all. If the United States is in the unfortunate position that there has not yet been a woman president by time Adelaide Grace turns 35, I assure you she will fill that role.

When the lawn was mowed, the mower was back where it belonged, and the gate was locked up, I informed the two girls that I had a twenty dollar bill and a five dollar bill, which I would give to Addie and trust that she would make it right with Dagny.

Addie’s going to give me ten dollars, Dagny informed me.

Now, I believe strongly in our Capitalist system – what the market will bear, and all that jazz. But the deal Addie struck with her sister reminded me of a blog post I wrote In June of 2014. Still, I zipped my lip because Dagny seemed happy as a clam. And to be fair, though Dagny did much of the work, Addie did teach her the ropes and did stick with her throughout the lawn mowing experience. And it’s only fair that the teacher earns more than the student.

And, of course, there’s that ice cream in the freezer.

This post linked to Grand Social.

My Way or the Highway

I’m going to hear a collective gasp from many of my readers – not the least of which will come from both of my sisters – but I don’t particularly buy into the notion that birth order largely affects one’s personality.

I’m sure birth order – like many things – impacts the way one sees life. However, I think that there are so many variables involved that you just can’t say unequivocally that he or she is that way because of placement within the family. For one thing, any time I read anything about birth order, it talks about first-born, middle child, and youngest. That implies all families consist of three children. So since I am the second of four, I guess that makes me a middle child, and so is my younger sister. And yet I assure you that she and I are not alike in very many ways. Mom always did like her best.

In my family, my brother is the youngest. Supposedly that makes him a free spirit, a risk taker, and charming. Now once everyone who knows my brother stops laughing at the notion of Dave being a free spirit, stop to think that he is the only boy in what was a traditional family. So, despite being the youngest, he had a lot of responsibilities that his sisters didn’t have, particularly when it came to helping Dad in the bakery. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Mom made his bed every day (and if not, I will soon hear about it from him).

Having said all of the above (implying that I, too, am an amateur psychologist), I will tell you that where the birth order supporters get it right is when it comes to the first-born. Nearly every first-born that I know has many of the same characteristics – they religiously follow rules; they are born leaders; they feel responsible for, well, everything in the world; and they see things as black or white, right or wrong, real or imagined. I love first-borns and am delighted to let them take over my world.

Joseph first day school 2015Because I have three sets of grandkids, I obviously have three grandkids who are first-borns. I am not able to observe Joseph on a day-to-day basis, but when I’m around him I can easily see that he has a strong sense of the way things are supposed to go. When they don’t, he feels responsible. (His younger brother Micah agrees – Joseph is responsible!) He is a sensitive kid, often bearing the woes of the world on his shoulders (when he isn’t sharing his sweet grin).

If you look up first-born in the dictionary, you will see Addie’s picture. She is addie first day of school 2015 (2)responsible for everyone and everything. She is self-confident, ambitious, and successful. She knows what is right, and tries to make sure everyone toes the line. In fact, sometimes when she is visiting with her siblings and her brother is not behaving as she would like, she will begin disciplinary procedures. I gently remind her, “Addie, I’ve got this.” She looks at me as though she is thinking, “Well, you may think you’ve got this, but you don’t got this very well!

Kaiya is a bit of a different story. She is actually not a first-born, having a brother who is 14 years older. Still, she has a lot of the characteristics of a first born since she for all intents and purposes plays that role in the family. Kaiya notices everything, and has a strong sense of the way things are supposed to be. She is the one who notices if I’ve changed something in the house. She doesn’t Kaiya first day of school 2015 (2)hesitate to let me know that I really should have left well enough alone.

I recently got a new cookie jar. I bought it primarily for the color, which goes well with my new kitchen colors. Etched on the cookie jar are the words Fresh Homemade Cookies. For the most part, the cookie jar contains Oreos, because that is the cookie of choice for ALL of my grandchildren as well as their grandfather. But ever since I bought that cookie jar, Kaiya has told me I shouldn’t have the Oreos in that cookie jar because they aren’t homemade. “Nana, you need to make some homemade cookies to put in that cookie jar,” she recently instructed me.





Well, birth order or not, I did as she instructed and made some homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. That should keep all the first-borns in my life at bay for a bit.

homemade cookies closeupPeanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from korenainthekitchen.com

2-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
¾ c. butter, room temperature
¾ c. granulated sugar
¾ c. packed brown sugar
¾ c. peanut butter
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Mix in peanut butter, egg, and vanilla until combined and creamy. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, and mix until the dough comes together. Add chocolate chips and mix until combined.

Drop by rounded tablespoons or form into 1-inch balls onto a greased baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Press each cookie with the back of a fork to give it the classic peanut butter cookie look.

Bake for 11-12 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn brown. Cool on the pan for a couple of minutes before placing them on a rack to cool.

Jumping for Joy

When you’re the third-born of four kids, birthdays are kind of a conundrum. A conundrum at least for the person trying to figure out what to buy you when, between all of the children, there is nothing your family doesn’t own. Of course, as third-born, you mustn’t mind hand-me-downs (or ups). My sister Jen, herself a third-born of four kids, still talks about the trials and tribulations of being stuck in the lower middle half of the family. You would think she’d be over it now that she’s 696 months old.

So, I put on my thinking cap back in early August when my third-born granddaughter Dagny celebrated her 9th birthday. I asked her mom for suggestions. A new bike helmet or a lunchbox for school, said she. Doesn’t that sound like the practical mom’s perfect birthday suggestions?

I did go ahead and buy her a new helmet, because, well, she moved to a new bike helmet age group, and at least a helmet is used when doing something fun. I just couldn’t do a lunchbox. Too boring. I kept imagining Dagny’s face when she opened up the present only to see a lunch box and thermos, reminding her that summer was almost over and school would soon begin. Just what I wanted, Nana, she would say with a fake smile. Someplace to put my half-of-a-turkey sandwich and my fruit chews in the morning and someplace to bring my half-of-a-turkey sandwich with one bite out of it home again in the afternoon.

But I remembered last winter when I asked Dagny (as I ask all of my grandkids) what she wanted for Christmas. Top of her list was to do something with me that didn’t include the other kids. Now that’s a third-born for you. I didn’t make that happen at Christmas because Bill and I leave Christmas Day for our winter in Arizona. But when I began thinking about her birthday, well, voila! So in addition to the bike helmet, I added a note saying I would take she and a friend to lunch anywhere she wanted, and then on to Jumpstreet. For those of you not familiar with Jumpstreet, it is an indoor trampoline park and all-around fun place for kids. You’re never too old to have fun at Jumpstreet is their slogan. That is, of course, not strictly true, which is why I offered to have Dagny invite a friend. The last time I jumped on a trampoline, I was seven years old and ended up in the hospital with a hernia. That, my friends, is a true story. So for my part, I enjoyed reading for two hours while they jumped to their hearts’ content. No hernia.

Dagny Brynn Jump Street

Dagny (right) and Brynn after two hours of nonstop jumping. Don’t they look pooped?

For a month now, Dagny has been considering where she wanted me to take her for lunch. I told her the only restriction was distance. Money wasn’t a particular consideration. McCormick & Schmick’s? Nope, she doesn’t like seafood or fish. Benihana’s? No again because while she likes to watch them cook her food, she doesn’t particularly like the offerings. So where did we end up?

Smashburger. Worked for me. I enjoyed my jalapeno Smashburger immensely. Dagny and her friend Brynn enjoyed their lunches as well, including enormous Oreo milkshakes. As an aside, they drank maybe a third of their shakes and then took them with them in a to-go cup to enjoy after Jumpstreet. Unfortunately, the inside of the yellow bug got hot enough to roast a pig, and their milkshakes didn’t quite survive.

Dagny Brynn Smashburger

Dagny and her friend Brynn enjoy their Oreo milkshakes.

I had a wonderful afternoon with the two fourth graders. I enjoyed hearing them talk about this, that, and the other. We had a fun discussion at lunch about their friendship, their siblings, their favorite subjects in school, and how their mommies and daddies met. Now that’s a subject for another blog post.