It makes a difference whether you are the first-born child, a middle child, a caboose or whatever your position is in the family. Having discussed the effects of birth order with many older writers, I am convinced that it profoundly affects the way our personalities are formed and the choices we make, such as finding a vocation. For example, one local writer who had lived on this earth more than a century gave me the following information, saying she had plenty of opportunities to notice the effects of birth order.
In 1902, a beautiful baby girl was born to my parents, their first child. They named her Eva Jane. Eighteen months later I (Betsy) was born, and sister Mary joined us two years later. Although Sister Eva was with us only five more years, my memory has kept a few things to remember about her. I remember that she developed a pain in her head and went blind. I also remember our mother’s grief when she explained to me that our Sister Eva had gone back to Heaven. Soon another sister was born and given the name Geraldine. It was then that I began to take on the role of the oldest child who becomes Mother’s assistant in caring for younger siblings.
One day in September 1914, the three sisters were called in from play and asked if we would like to spend the night with our paternal grandparents, who had left the farm and moved into town. We were elated and soon were on our way. The next day when we returned home, there was not only another sweet baby sister, Mildred, but a dear little brother, Mitchell, as well: twins. We often teased Daddy that it took four girls before he got the boy he was always hoping for.
At the birth of the twins, Mary and I were both given responsibilities. Mary was given Mildred to care for and I was given Mitchell, thus lightening Mother’s load while she was busy with other household jobs. Today I marvel that she was able to keep the household running, even with my assistance and that of Mary.
The size of our family had increased to seven, but I was glad. I was used to large families, both paternal and maternal. Daddy’s family, by this time had increased to nineteen. My grandfather’s first wife had died, leaving him with seven children. When he married again (brave woman, wasn’t she), my father was the second wife’s first child. Five brothers and four sisters followed. I always had young uncles and aunts to play with while we waited for the adults to finish a meal and the long dining table before we were served. Having uncles and aunts your own age is another interesting aspect of birth order.
When, at the age of 18, I got my first job of teaching fourth grade students in Bonham, Texas, I knew how to work with young children. All the experience I had in raising my younger siblings paid off. Even though I eventually became certified to teaching at all levels, I preferred to work with fourth and fifth graders.
Since everyone in my family loved music, when I started teaching in the Bonham Public School System, the first thing I bought was a Victrola that had to be cranked. I had a friend, who in time became my husband, and he would bring me records of the most popular songs until I had a big stack of records. I always tried to teach my students to love music also.
I went on to teach in Lubbock and Denison before my husband and I moved to Fort Worth, where I taught for fourteen years. I enjoyed my teaching so much that I wasn’t ready to give it up when we retired and moved back to Denison. My love of teaching young children began when I was promoted to “eldest child” and became Mother’s helper in raising my younger siblings.
Jerry Lincecum is a retired Austin College professor who now teaches older adults to write their autobiographies and family histories. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.