I've often wondered if there was much truth to the theory that personality traits are shaped by a child's birth order. I know that in my own family, there is a huge difference in personality between my oldest sister and myself and I've seen similar characteristics in other families, between the oldest sibling and the youngest. The "stereotype" is that the oldest is a perfectionist often misconstrued as a "control freak" ... while the youngest is a carefree soul, often misconstrued as "spoiled".
I've also wondered if it was possible that although our children were born within 3-minutes of each other, that there are differences in their personalities based on when they were born. The more I've read up on this topic and witnessed the personalities that are emerging with our young children, the more I am convinced that birth order does infact, have an effect on personality.
Probably more so with multiples.
For starters ... I'm absolutely positively certain - without a doubt - that Carolyn and Elizabeth were switched at birth.
When I was expecting our triplets, we knew that Baby A was a boy.
Baby B was one of our girls that rarely moved around.
Baby C was our second girl, the smallest of the trio, and extremely active.
This was the baby that flipped in utero during one of my ultrasounds - was counted twice - and for a few very tense moments ... Charlie and I were convinced we were having quadruplets. This is the baby that was always smaller than the other two and the one that would give Charlie and I an abdominal acrobatic show every night.
While I was pregnant, I imagined that Baby C was going to be a tiny little firecracker when she was born. I had heard, many times over, that a baby often behaves on the "inside" as they will on the "outside".
If the baby is constantly flipping and rolling in utero, chances are, they will constantly be moving ex utero, too.
Hence my surprise that when the babies did arrive, Baby C was the larger of the two girls. Even more surprising, the baby I had been informed was Baby C, and whom we named Carolyn Grace, was the most laid back child you ever did come across. From the moment we brought her home from the hospital, all she did was sleep.
She would sleep through her feedings.
She would sleep through her baths.
While the other two would wake up howling, whenever she woke up, she did it with a coo.
Her sister, meanwhile, would never stop moving. She squirmed out of her swaddled blankets, she would scootch across her crib or floor, and needed to be held ... all the time.
Recently, Charlie created a growth stick for the children. It's a simple 6-foot wooden stick and on it, he has recorded the children's birth lengths and their lengths/heights at 3-months, 6-months, 9-months, 1-year and 2-years old.
As Charlie was transferring this data on to the growth stick - he noticed that Baby C, Carolyn, was recorded as being born a full inch shorter than Baby B, Elizabeth. Although, we knew in the NICU that Carolyn was actually the larger baby. Moreover, Carolyn has consistently been taller than Elizabeth during each measurement.
What I believe happened is that they were mixed up following the birth and enroute to the NICU.
If their size wasn't enough to convince me, more evidence to support my theory that our girls were switched at birth is their personalities.
Elizabeth is the quintessential youngest child. She is a little firecracker - the epitome of what I imagined Baby C to be. She is currently 5 pounds lighter than her brother and sister and at least an inch shorter. She was the first to roll, crawl, cruise, walk, climb, scale furniture and counters - and just today - hopped over the baby gate in the nursery. Although she clings to me when we are at home, when we are out in public, she is a social butterfly. She never cries at playdates - has little to no fear - and as a result, will get in to more trouble and faster, than the other two, combined.
She loves to push my buttons and will do things, solely to see my reaction. She loves to push her sibling's buttons. She loves to push the dog's buttons. Yet, she gets away with (almost) everything that she does because she is so fiesty and adorable.
Carolyn is the quintessential middle child. She is extremely laid back - with a cheery disposition and a peacemaking ability that her siblings lack, she can often be found playing quietly by herself (but not overlooked!!) Although her personality frequently borders on melodramatic. Whenever we raise our voice with her, it is almost inevitable that she will turn away from us, with eyes full of tears, and a deep sigh. Unless we immediately apologize, she will make it obvious that the only way she can see us, through her tears, is by contorting her face so that her eyes are open as wide as possible.
This morning, when the children had driven me to the brink less than 5-minutes after they were out of bed and I sent them scurrying off to play in William's room while I tried to prepare breakfast ... it was Carolyn that slowly approached me in the kitchen. With a cautious smile and little hands that reached out to rub my leg, I could tell that she was testing the waters before summoning her siblings to come out of hiding.
William is the quintessential oldest child. He is the leader of the pack. He is and has always been, the most vocal of the group. Now a days, he will shout orders like a drill sergeant. Yesterday, I watched as he took Elizabeth by the hand and made her stand in time-out for throwing a toy, and today, he informed Carolyn that her time was up and it was Elizabeth's turn to play on the rocking chair. He is an enforcer of rules and a 2-year old perfectionist ... although, he doesn't necessarily follow all the rules, himself.
This afternoon, before lunch, he told me that he wanted to sit in the "big chair" ... meaning, a chair without a booster seat. Approving his request, I told him that to sit in the "big chair" he had to sit on his bum. Halfway through lunch, I watched him stand up in his chair and with one stern finger - point at his sister, Carolyn, who was standing in her chair - and disapprovingly tell her "Sit on BUM, Twacie!!"
Maybe it's purely coincidence that their personalities so closely match the birth order descriptions I've read about. But I think it's interesting that many of the characteristics they had as tiny infants, they possess now. Only time will tell if their personality traits will persist as they grow older, or, as we add a new baby to the family.
One thing is for sure. William's a lot more modest than his younger sisters.