Birth Order, Family Size and Its Influences by
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Prompted By Birth Order

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I was born at the start of the baby boom in 1949.  I was the first of four offspring in my family with twin brothers born two years later and a final brother born eight years later.  I think being the oldest does have some unique experiences but other factors influenced my childhood since I was born shortly after World War II.

Being first born, I got to do things first. Generally an advantage, but not always.

Being born at the beginning of the baby boom, most of my friends were the oldest in their family, or certainly not the youngest.  In addition, most of the baby boomer’s fathers were veterans from World War II.  Today, the average child has friends that are a mix of family birth order, and very few have a parent that was a veteran.

Since I was the oldest, I generally got to do things first.  For example, I got my first bicycle for my eighth birthday.  However, my two brothers got their bicycles on their seventh birthday.  Why didn’t they have to wait to age eight?  Another advantage of being first, I got my parent’s exclusive attention for two years.  By the time my twin brothers were born, Mom had to split her attention three ways.  Unfortunately,  Dad had started flying in the Air Force during much of this time, and Mom had to do much of the child care alone.  Living in South Dakota, it was not a fun or easy place to be in winter, especially with three boys.  I am still in awe of the job mother did when we were very young.  When my last brother came while living in Seattle, the three older brothers needed less attention and my parents were starting to get worn out raising children.  However, they did have a play book of what worked in child care so maybe that was not bad.  A great example was Dad came home one weekend after flying on a US Air Force B-36, and had three model B-36s, one for each boy.  He needed to put them together.  Of course, I got the first one after about an hour.  The next two only took Dad about 30 minutes each to put together, but did not have all the errors I had in mine. I may have been first, but my brothers’ planes were error free.

Not all things were great by being the oldest.  I was constantly reminded that I needed to set the example.  This was emphasized when I did something bad.  Also, by the time the youngest was born, I was frequently  did some of the child care of my youngest brother.  Of course, I would have preferred to play baseball, but the youngest brother was not very good at it at age 3.

Finally, I think that having fathers that were veterans influenced my friends and me.  We were very interested in planes, ships, etc and “what did Dad do during the war”.  Also, Mom’s trials and tribulations on the home front were not only interesting, I was awed at the stamina she displayed.  Unfortunately, sometimes what Dad did in the war took a toll on some of my friend’s families.  For example, my girlfriend’s father suffered from PTSD since he landed in France on June 6, 1944 and eleven months later, his army division was liberating a Nazi death camp.  I and his daughter thank him for what he did for all of us.  However, there was a price he and his daughters paid.

I think that birth order does have some influence on one’s life direction.  The oldest gets the most attention and is first to try things.  Those that follow do have some of the path cleared for them.  Good parents, which I was blessed with, give enough attention to all their children without favoritism , and the younger children get the blessing of the parent’s previous experiences.  Finally, the times one is born in has an influence.  I wonder how Covid-19 will affect the children growing up now.

Profile photo of Joe Lowry Joe Lowry
I was a child that moved so often, (8 elementary/middle schools) and finally went to to high school in Arroyo Grande California. I ended up at San Jose State University graduating in Chemistry, minor in Biology. Got married, and had two sons. Unfortunately, my wife passed 35 years later. I worked initially in the pharmaceutical industry. After being down-sized, I ended up in the aerospace field, working on satellites. I still live in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Tags: First born. Influence in my life. Fathers who were veterans.
Characterizations: right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Your parents certainly had their hands full with four boys, Joe; on the other hand, my own mother also had four boys and thought they were much easier to deal with than I was. I’m curious as to whether the birth order dynamic in your lives as children played out “according to the book” in your adult lives.

    Your last sentence raises some serious questions. There are a lot of factors at work, but children are resilient. Mostly I worry about whether the pervasive undercurrent of fear will take a toll, and wonder how that will play out.

    • Joe Lowry says:

      I agree that the undercurrent of fear may be a big factor in our children’s future. I often reflect on both the print and electronic news spends so much time on negative stories. An interesting fact (?) I read was it takes 5 positive stories to balance 1 negative story. If it is true, no news source is following that formula.

  2. Suzy says:

    Interesting theory, Joe, about the influence on early boomers of having fathers who were veterans and friends who were all firstborns. Of course, since the baby boom started in 1946, kids born in ’49 could easily have had older siblings. But as it happened, you and your friends did not.

    While there are lots of influences on every child, I do think birth order is one of them. Do you see stereotypical firstborn traits in yourself, middle child traits in the twins, or lastborn traits in your youngest brother?

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    What an interesting perspective, Joe. I like how you linked early baby boomers and first borns. Because only men with children born before Pearl Harbor were exempt from the war, my father-in-law was drafted in 1943, leaving my mother-in-law with a baby to raise alone until the war ended. My husband was born 9 months after he returned from service. I hadn’t thought about the impact of having fathers who served in WWII had on the early baby boom generation.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Joe, you give us an interesting tale of the ups and downs of birth order (getting stuff first, but mistakes were made; you had to baby sit and set a good example), but you also throw in so much rich detail about your father’s WWII experience. He was part of the D-Day invasion and marched through to liberate the camps. I with you’d write a whole story about that, if your father ever talked about it. Also, you give great credit to you mother, for her stamina at holding down the fort, taking care of her four little boys while your father was away all day. So many children (even as adults) don’t have that perspective and recognize all that goes into caring for the home and the children. Thank you for giving us your personal, fascinating narrative.

    • Joe Lowry says:

      Thank you for the comments. Actually, it was my girlfriend’s father that stormed across Europe. My father spent WWII in the states. However, during the Cold War, he was navigating recon planes next to (or maybe over) the iron curtain countries. Not a safe occupation.

  5. Joe, I agree the times have much to do with it -my sister and I were born ten years apart in such different times – and I think that supervenes birth order. And of course the skills and wisdom of the parents are paramount.

    And I too wonder and worry about new parents raising children now in this time of Covid.

    I

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