Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shut Up, Katie!

A few evenings ago, I attended a cookout hosted by a good friend. As we were finishing our meal, my friend's two darling daughters were amiably chatting with us all when Katie suddenly made fun of something Emily had said. Emily, who is three years younger than Katie, then retorted with a heated, vehement, and seemingly long-withheld “Shut up, Katie!!”

Now, this type of thing isn’t that uncommon. Siblings do bicker and bash at each other as they traverse the family terrain, trying to find a place for themselves. What makes this incidence a bit more unusual (and a lot funnier) is that Katie is 34 and a married mother of one, and Emily is 31 and in graduate school.

I wasn’t surprised though, as similar flare-ups happen any time my family is together, and my own kids are 36, 34, and 26. Although I continually assure each of them that I love them best and remind them not to tell the others, they still act like, well, like children, when we are all together. They tell me they are fine with neither their father nor I in the room, so it’s obviously the parents and not the kids who are the problem.

I remember my mother telling me that the optimal age difference in siblings is three years. That's probably because that's the rate at which she birthed my brother and me. According to my mother's rule, Melissa and Billy, my first two, were born too close together and poor Molly was so far behind, some people forget that there ever was a third Talbert kid.

There's been all sorts of research on siblings and birth order, but I have my own theory. I believe if everyone were first born, we would certainly accomplish a lot, but we'd also have an exponential increase in wars, along with a veritable pandemic of hostile buyouts and acquisitions. The problem with birthing only first borns might explain the issues the rest of the world has with China, situations solely caused by its one-child policy.

If the world were made up of only last borns, nothing would ever get done, other than an increased proliferation of stand-up comedy, minimalist art, and blogging. Last borns tend to be sidewinders who would perfect the notion of doing their own thing if it wasn't just too much trouble. I am a good example of a last born.

Middle children? These peacemakers just might save us all if they could possibly extricate themselves from the center of their own family's issues.

I guess it's a good thing that accidents happen to all families (except in China) and that we can't always predict which offspring will arrive when. As science gets closer and closer to allowing people to perfectly engineer the genetic make up of their children, I hope we remember this.

But then again, maybe it's the learning to deal with a sibling, or a cousin or perhaps a second-grade classmate, even if the little pain in the ass was created from carefully-selected egg and sperm donors, that prepares us all to have the skills, wherewithal, and stamina to survive in the adult world.

So, a "Shut up, Katie!!" from a 31-year-old little sister probably isn't such a bad thing after all.


Celia said...

Ouch, speaking as a first born of course, and truthfully I wouldn't trade places with any of my siblings birth order-wise. ;-)

Birdie said...

I am a middle child and yes I am the peace maker but I had learned that quality before my sister came along as my brother was a holy terror and I wanted no part of it.

Shut up Katie! LOL At least there was no hair pulling.

Olga said...

I just got together with my three siblings this past week and it was right back to the old roles--and three of us are in our 60's.

MaryB said...

I think a "Shut Up, Katie" every once in a while is good for all. It clears the air - until next time. Somehow we brothers and sisters know how to push the buttons of the others. We learned it in childhood and next quite outgrew it.

Brighid said...

I'm the first born and to hear my brother tell it, the best sister ever.... or maybe that's just what I thought I heard.

Arkansas Patti said...

Wow, looks are deceiving for they look so compatible.
I was last born till early teens but thanks to my Dad remarrying after my mother passed, I spent time as the middle child then the oldest. I am so confused.

Anonymous said...

I'm the father of the two who inspired this article, and I have absolutely nothing to contribute to an understanding of their life-long sibling dynamic!

Friko said...

The first born is the one who runs things, the last-born is everybody's darling and the middle one is the nobody special child, just the middle one.

I'd give anything to be one of three, whatever place in the pecking order I'd have. I am the only born, not a pleasant place to be in.

Bobby Gail said...

Your blog is SO funny, Marcia.

Wisewebwoman said...

Well, I'm a first born (of 6) Marcia and it was no easy ride. Seems like all the experimenting and rules were tried out on me first. But I have observed how all 6 of us revert quite badly when left in a room together. Approx age about 4. The boys do a lot of bragging and bringing up old old tensions. Us two girls roll our eyes until all the boys turn on her (she's the youngest) and tell her how to live her life.
Then the fun starts.

Cile said...

"...Last borns tend to be sidewinders who would perfect the notion of doing their own thing if it wasn't just too much trouble. I am a good example of a last born..." I knew there was some kind of kindred spirit at play in you! I'm the baby...gotta love me. Funny Marcia, you sidewinder you! Ha! said...

The problem with owning parrots (which I do) is that they repeat everything they hear. So do little brothers and sisters. Telephone, telegraph, tell Eddie.

As for China. They now have a labor shortage, soon they will be importing illegal aliens like the rest of the world. See what happens when you try to fix a problem? Another one always emerges. Realizing this some families would do well not to have any children after the first one. At least I never botoxed my kids. Dianne (an oldest child)

Freda said...

My 4 sons all got on well together in a wild sort of way. The best thing about yours is that they still get together and interact.

marciamayo said...

Freda: Four sons? No wonder you became a minister. You needed all the help you could get.