As you read my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you are quickly introduced to our family of five daughters. I’ve had the opportunity to observe closely their developing personalities in terms of their psychology and how that shapes how they put their experiences to use in their adult lives. Then you add thirty years in “the chair” and after a while you begin to see patterns in family relationships and how those patterns influence one’s adult behavior. I’ve told you before that the hearts on the tree on the cover of my book represent each daughter, so as you read my stories associate them with one of the hearts: Cora is green, May is red, Elizabeth is blue, Felicia is yellow, and Annie is lavender/pink.
Cora [Green] is the oldest in both the original family and in the family that my husband Sy and I created with our marriage. As the oldest she strives to make sure she is doing what she believes we parents want her to accomplish. She pushes herself hard and she expects the younger siblings to follow her lead. Leadership is usually associated with the oldest child. They are trying to please those neophyte parents. The upshot is the younger children often find that oldest child to be bossy and know-it-all, while the oldest child feels they are responsible for the younger ones or sometimes for everything. In their adult life they may be controlling because they have already cut the path for others and wonder why the others don’t want to follow, such as a husband. They get angry when the husband bucks them. After all they KNOW how it should be done.
May [Red] was the oldest child in the original family with me and so she carries some of the attributes of the oldest child such as being a ground breaker and cutting a path, but then in the family created by Sy and I she is the second child who either tries harder to achieve than the first or doesn’t try at all because it’s been done before. May also has the added burden of being next to the youngest in her biological family. [She had the opportunity to meet her biological mother and some of her siblings and half siblings a few years ago.] The upshot for May is that she doesn’t have a clear picture of what role she should play in life and therefore how she should relate to people in her adult life. She vacillates from knowing-it-all to being helpless and believing she can’t solve her problems.
Elizabeth [Blue] is the second child in her original family and the third in the family that Sy and I created. She also carries some of the biological first child characteristics because biologically she is the first child—May was adopted and although she was a family member before Elizabeth arrived, the DNA seems to override here. Elizabeth is the problem solver and has that know-it-all quality because she is the first to push through the womb. At the same time you sometimes see her retreat within the family to the position of the forgotten middle child. I feel her loneliness in that position because during some of my childhood I was that middle child. She expects men to understand her and then she retreats so they can’t find her.
Felicia [Yellow] was the third child in her original family and as such was the baby. In the family that Sy and I created she is next to the youngest child. So she has those qualities of waiting to be told what to do as the younger or baby seems to demonstrate, while she can lord it over the next child down because she is not the baby in the blended family. A child in this position will vacillate from some of the qualities of the oldest; built-in leadership and then helpless to solve a problem because someone else always solved it for you.
Annie [Lavender/Pink] was the youngest child both in her family of origin and in the family Sy and I created. She is the ‘darling’ and uses that at the same time she feels that she is not respected for what she knows because the others always seem to have learned it first. I can relate to these feelings too, because for nine years I also was the youngest in my family of origin. Annie strives hard to show that she is intelligent, can problem solve, and is of value. What is seen for both Annie and Felicia is there is a tendency to ask permission to do things in their marital family because that was their role in their blended family. What happens when as an adult you ask permission to do something of your spouse, the partner assumes the role of the parent and okays or denies your request as your parents did. This reinforces the feelings of not having your own authority or not being good enough, left over from childhood. If you want more information about this Parent/Adult/Child behavior pattern go to my website and click on the Tidbits access.This will take you to the index of articles and around February 15, 2017 I did the Tidbit Column on “Parent, Adult, Child!” Happy reading!
Now having said all of this there are many other contributing factors which for matters of simplicity I’ve left out, but it is surprising how much the position you held in your original family shapes the role you play in your adult work situations and marital life.
Can you see how your position in your family of origin shapes the way you relate in the work world and in your personal life? You were trained as part of a pecking order!!