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Opinion: Don’t tell my kids that birth order doesn’t matter

They know the playbook and execute it flawlessly

Statistical studies debunked Alfred Adler’s theory about the supposed birth-order characteristics of children years ago.

I don’t care. In my home, the kids will tell you Adler was legit.

Andrea Chacos

My oldest is convinced we’re the strictest with her, having to pave the way for others. The middle child, afraid to be overlooked, is loud and boisterous. The baby doesn’t say much at all because he doesn’t have to say much at all. He uses facial gestures instead. For instance, a smirk lets me know he wants me to stop calling him “the baby” because he’s now too old for that. Or maybe he wants me to fetch him some chilled grapes instead.

This spring my oldest marveled at the changing seasons by watching the bees graze in our yard of yellow dandelions. She explained to me that dandelion flowers are an important food source for pollinators. As she continued to tell me the benefits of having them in our yard, my middle child ripped through the serenity like Mel Gibson in that famous scene from “Braveheart,” except my son wielded a lacrosse stick over his head and shouted, “Ma! Watch!” 

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With a running start, he proceeded to kick the heads off every weed as if he’s Lionel Messi taking the winning penalty shot of a championship soccer game. I didn’t know what to do but clap enthusiastically like one of those wind-up stuffed monkeys.

For obvious reasons, the youngest was not outside. He knows I was about to ask someone to mow the lawn. He doesn’t want to get tangled up in the nuisance of daily chores, especially when two older, more capable siblings are around to do them. What the youngest does do, however, is schedule an appointment with the pest and weed control company that still uses Roundup to eradicate what he claims is an unsightly yard. He doesn’t like the loud buzzing from below his window, either.

Now that my children are old enough to understand the cause and effect between hunger and eating, they’re pretty much on their own now that summer is here. With nonchalance like it’s her birthright, my oldest child walks down the street to her grandparent’s house to dine there. No matter the time of day, my dad eagerly cooks his oldest grandchild a gourmet meal. Before she gets up from the table, she says, “I love you, grandpa,” and, without fail, he scurries back to the kitchen to blend her one of his famous milkshakes. She must have trained him in no time at all, and I note that she’s becoming a master strategist, one of the many skills the oldest child learns.

Food is fuel for my middle child because he eats for sustenance and has no time for cuisine. He makes quite a spectacular scene with his kitchen skills, like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. He’s dramatic, talks incessantly, and food flies everywhere. I don’t even flinch anymore when I find bits of nachos, ramen, cereal, or a piece of pepperoni near the couch. I tell myself they’re my son’s calling cards, his little “I love you” notes he knows I like to receive. That’s part of his middle-child charm, his affable personality shining through.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

The youngest child deals with food differently than the others. He learned to cook at an early age, meticulously showing us what he enjoys eating. He can prepare a steak dinner like his grandpa but often chooses to have others do the work for him. He enjoys fine food, impeccable manners, and good company. We’re lucky to be on his short list.

I’m not convinced birth order has much to do with the differences among siblings. Some of it must be a coincidence. However, this morning I was the first one up and while I was making coffee, I noted how unusually chilly it was downstairs. The front door was left wide open.

I know the culprit must be the one allowed to stay up past midnight watching movies that his older siblings wouldn’t have dreamt of watching at his age. I’m simply thrilled he put his empty dessert bowl near the counter and turned off the television before heading up to bed.


Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale.


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