I was the younger brother to one sister. We are close in age without being too close. The idea of birth order was black and white for me. I knew my role, to annoy my sister. Being the parent to three boys who are close in age has hidden the impact of having a “middle child”. There are a lot of writings about the concept of birth order and what it means to be the oldest youngest or somewhere in the middle. I have read some on the topic and talked with other parents, but I don’t think I grasped the full understanding until we welcomed Jacob into our home four weeks ago.
It has been interesting to watch how the four boys interact. What makes them laugh? What makes them frustrated? Who tries to control what, when and how to the others react? Throw in the language and cultural differences into the mix and you have another vector into the birth order concept.
What surprised me is that Alex, the oldest of the three, was most frustrated with being displaced in the birth order (come to think about it, he wasn’t too keen at first of losing his only child status). Alex was frustrated that Jacob got to stay up later. It frustrated Alex when he wasn’t the “boss” of the television remote, or video game or play activity. Alex and Jacob played well together. They played games in the swimming pool, drew together and horsed around fine. When it came to a single point of control and one didn’t like the choice of the other, that is when feelings got bent out of shape. But those shapes were sorted out in many different ways.
Max and Michael had a lessor visible reaction. They already played the role of younger brother. They always had a sibling or other kids around. It wasn’t so much the issue of birth order as much as communication and cultural differences. Michael’s frustration came out when Jacob got something he didn’t. For the most part Max went along with everything. Jacob always seems more patient with Max, he was more of a caretaker.
There are countless examples of what the three boys enjoyed about Jacob’s visit. They liked getting to stay up late. They liked getting to eat different things. They liked making friends with a new family where they had opportunities to do new and different activities like boating, laser-tag, trampoline dodgeball and going to Little Amerikka. Most of all at a primal level they, especially Max, liked having someone who has the similar life experience of being Asian and bonding with a forever family. You don’t need birth order for that. You need family, friends and a compassionate soul.
Michelle and I give the boys a lot of credit. They showed flexibility, forgiveness, compomprimise and tenacity in in experiencing being a host family for Jacob. They were the catalyst for our participation in the Orphan Hosting Program. They held up their end of the bargain, to be good brothers to Jacob during his stay.
As we wind down the week, any hurt feelings of not getting to watch a certain television show, play a certain game or eat a certain food will be washed away with missing the laughter, wonder and caring that Jacob brought with him. The boys are sad to see him go even knowing that in the next calendar year, Jacob will get to visit with us again with his forever family.