Monday, October 28, 2013

Is the First-born Naturally the Smartest?

Did your first born talk sooner, read better, and count higher than their younger siblings?  Do you always find yourself comparing the younger one to the older with "he's not getting it as fast as the older one."  I recently saw a video about a study claiming that the first-born sibling is generally the smartest.  As the first-born child, I did a little happy dance, despite the fact that, on paper, my younger sibling is smarter. As a mom, though, I wondered about my four children and how this applies to them.

As parents, we are in tune to the difference in birth order, either from "scientific" and social evidence, or our experience with our own kids.  All, or at least most, of the Presidents were first-born sons (or functioned as one; the older had died, the older was a half-sibling, or such).  Most comedians are the "baby" or last-born of the family.  A friend of mine and I fully believe that there should be a special summer camp just for the middle-children.  But I do sometimes wonder how much of that is natural and how much of that comes from how they are raised. Yes, the nature vs. nurture debate.

That first kid gets a lot of attention.  We're all excited, with a healthy bit of nervousness, and want to be the best parents ever. And we don't have any other little person to occupy our attention.  We carry the baby around, we sing and talk to her, read every book over and over and over, take them to every Mommy & Me and baby music and little gymnastics and tiny toes dance activity in a 25 miles radius. We breastfeed and make our own organic baby food, ensure timely naps, and sanitize everything. When they get to school, we sit right next to them when they do their homework, volunteer to chaperone every field trip, and sit on the edge of our seats at their sports practice and music rehearsals. We are their inexhaustible cheerleaders.

Then baby number two. If they are lucky, they are the opposite sex of the first-born and will at least get much of the same adoration for being a different type of little being who needs different clothes and toys and method of potty-training, demanding almost a similar level of attention.  Although the food may not be all organically pureed, as twice the amount of super clean carrots gets expensive, and chopping one teeny serving and pureeing another gets tedious.  Unless the babies are close enough in age to be in the same baby academics, then they'll have to take turns having fun and then sitting in their carrier.  If he/she is the same sex as baby number one, they will have to find a way to differentiate themselves and make sure mom and dad do not confuse the two as an easy pair.

Watch out for baby number three.  If mom and dad now have three of a kind, get them some medicinal liquid, quick.  If there's some mix of boys and girls, it might be more survivable.  But either way, you've got to keep a sharp eye on baby two who has now become a "middle child."  Baby number three is eating french fries and food mashed with a fork.  Mom doesn't have much time to sit and read with baby and teach her the ABCs and her numbers, so she's pretty much learning everything from the two older siblings.  She sits in awe of these two bigger beings who can reach cups on the top of the counter, can make colorful marks on a piece of paper, and makes noises similar to the two really big people in the house.  Baby number three's goal is to catch up quickly with all these other creatures.  Or at best, make them recognize that she exists in anyway she can.  Throwing bottles and screeching seems to work well.

Baby number four and beyond?  Literacy, number sense? Really, aren't we all just so happy that by the end of the day, the family census data hasn't changed?

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