Birth order - or where you fall in the pecking order of your family - has long fascinated me.
Being an only child, I always wondered how that influenced some of my traits and quirks.
Psychologists have even looked at how it can impact someone’s personality.
Alfred Adler developed a whole theory about it.
Even though I had some exposure to these theories, I never quite had the opportunity to present my personal argument.
According to Adler, only children like myself are often leaders who are not only the center of attention but they seek that attention from adults more than their peers.
That may be true.
I wanted to be the teacher’s favorite more than anything, depending on the teacher.
As for being a leader, I prefer to just do my stuff behind the scenes. Tell me what to do, when you need it done, and leave me alone.
So with much respect, I find myself disagreeing with this to some extent.
Firstborns are often the overachievers and rule followers. Secondborns can be competitive or find a way to excel that differs from their first-born sibling. The baby of the family is often a bit spoiled because everyone tends to dote on it.
Of course, there are some differences depending on a lot of things, but one thing Adler didn’t include in his study of birth order was my family.
Granny was the middle child of 10, so she was always partial to people who were middle children.
The minute she discovered this fact, she felt a certain kinship and camaraderie, as if they were part of some special club of some sort.
She had already liked my husband the first time she met him; he reminded her of her favorite golfer, Davis Love, for some reason, and when she found out he was a middle child himself, he could surely do no wrong in her eyes.
“Middle children are the most misunderstood, aren’t we, Lamar?” she said.
Lamar, being smart, nodded. “Yep, they are, Granny.”
“We’re the peacemakers,” she continued.
I not only about fell out of my chair but I also nearly choked on my biscuit.
“What did you say?” I asked, taking a sip of water.
She glared at me across the table. She was having a moment and I had interrupted her train of either thought or manipulation.
“I said, middle children are the peacemakers. Aren’t we, Lamar?”
He nodded in agreement.
I’m telling y’all, this man is far smarter than he gives himself credit for being. He could see her coming a mile away.
“You are the peacemaker?” I asked incredulously.
The old gal stuck her chin up and nodded. “I am. I always have been. I have a knack for negotiation.”
“Didn’t you knock your sister upside the head with a baseball bat once?”
“Hush it!” she hissed. “That was something between me and her, and she needed to be knocked.” She wiggled in her seat. “She had it coming. There was no making peace with her.”
Granny shot me a look. “You don’t understand because you’ve been the baby of the family your whole life. When you grow up with siblings, sometimes you gotta defend yourself. Don’t you, Lamar?”
She was back on track with whatever point she was trying to make.
“That’s right, Granny.”
She nodded, feeling empowered by their solidarity.
“See there,” she said. “Lamar understands. He knows.”
Middle children can be the peacemakers -- Adler even stated that -- but the words “peace” and my grandmother did not go together in the same sentence.
“So, aside from trying to turn your sister’s head into a home run, what makes you think you were the peacemaker?” I asked.
Lamar caught my eye across the table and shook his head slightly at me.
“Yes, I am a peacemaker. I am able to help people come together and find a common ground.”
“Granny, sometimes that’s all people need. To see they’ve got more things in common than differences,” Lamar said. “When we get done eating, I want you to show me all those photo albums you’ve got in the living room. I bet you’ve got a lot of ones of Sudie when she was younger.”
She beamed. “Oh, Lord, yes! I’ve got tons. She was a sweet child. She was just mouthy.”
I sighed and continued eating, grateful they had somehow bonded over being the middle child.
I didn’t agree with anything she was saying, but she was relishing in the fact she was charming someone new and enjoying every second of it.
And, as long as she was fawning over Lamar, she wasn’t arguing with me or anyone else for that matter.
“Do you think you were the peacemaker of the family?” I asked him later.
“Well, I tried earlier.”
That he did. He had somehow kept the old gal preoccupied and made her feel like she was understood. He had attempted to intervene when I was trying to prove my point with her -- which was quite brave of him to try to get between two feral cats like the two of us.
Instead of arguing, he had let her feel important and had somehow managed to agree with her without committing a lie.
She had been downright pleasant and jovial the whole time, largely because Lamar had let her say what she wanted to and just let her be.
He understood what was the best course of action at that moment and somehow, it worked beautifully.
Blessed are those middle children, especially the one I’ve got, for they truly are the peacemakers.