Friday, August 26, 2011

Middle Borns: You're all right in my book

As I was driving home from work on Wednesday, NPR’s Talk of the Nation was interviewing two women who had recently written a book about middle children. Turns out, middle children are pretty fantastic, as if that’s a newsflash to anyone.

Common traits of middle children include:

  • Good negotiators
  • Keen diplomatic skills
  • Peace makers
  • Open-minded
  • Independent
  • Flexible
  • Great marriage partners (nudge, nudge, wink wink)
  • Smell good
To give them their due credit, the book is called The Secret Power of Middle Children by Catherine Salmon and Katrin Schumann. Here’s some great insight from Salmon:

"If you grow up in a family and the firstborn tends to have a certain amount of authority that's given to them by the parents, and they're physically larger, they tend to get what they want or get their way through physical force or the authority parents have given them. [ahemmm, Amy (my oldest sister, or as we like to call her, second-mom)…] While for the last-born, as anyone who's had to deal with a lot of last-borns often knows [oh, we know], they tend to whine to the parents or get very upset if they don't get their way. And so that's their particular strategy for working out what needs to be worked out.

"For the middle child, neither of those strategies are available. So they often get very good at negotiating, figuring out what the other person wants and needs, and then managing to get them what they want and what the middle child themselves want at the same time. And, of course, one of the things that middle children often want is peace and calm and quiet and for everybody to get along. And so those traits then serve them well when they leave the family and go on to form their own families, and in the workplace."

Rings true for me.

As they do on Talk of the Nation, they asked listeners to call in with their input. They wanted to hear from middle children and wondered at what age did they start to value their place in the family.

If I would enter the 21st Century already and get myself a cell phone, I would have called in with the following genius insight:

I remember being out of college and still complaining to my brother-in-law that I didn’t get as much attention as some of the other siblings in my family. I think I was 23. I’m embarrassed to remember that conversation. I think that actually started my mind toward thinking more on the good things about myself and less on the negative.

I distinctly remember at age 29 having an awakening of my mind. It must have had something to do with the looming age 30, because a light went off in my head. I determined that everything in my life up to that moment was due in large part to my own choosing.

I didn’t have the pressures of living up to some unmet expectations, because I had none placed upon me. I was me, and I’d always been me, and I was okay with that. I knew that if I ran a race, won a talent competition, or became a prize-winning author it would be because it was something I wanted to do. If people were there to cheer me on, great. But if no one turned up, not one solitary single person in the whole-wide world of mankind (crickets chirping), I would live. And I would still love whatever it was I was doing.

Middle children get the bad rap of being picked on, uncreative losers with poor self-esteem. Actually, middle children due tend to have less self-esteem than oldest children or those footloose-and-fancy-free lastborns, but they don’t need to look to their bellybuttons anymore. Pick your heads up, middleborns! You are wonderful!

I am the middle of 10, but really, there are quite a few of us smooshed in the middle. According to researchers, anyone who isn’t the first born or the last born are the middle.

But my sister Amy hardly qualifies as a middle. Even though she is the second born, she stole that title away from Doug, the actual oldest born. I think I would put Doug in a class all by himself: identity theft stole me of my firstbornness.

I’ve been mulling the idea of my life choices over in my head lately. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I really like my job. I love it, in fact. I feel like I was born to be a technical writer. That doesn't sound exciting to you, does it? That's okay. What's important is that I love it.

I was moving some boxes up from the basement, and I found a newspaper clipping of when I was in high school and our school newspaper had won an award, so the local paper came out to interview the staff of the high school newspaper. In the article I mentioned that I wanted to be a journalist and that I loved computers.

How could I combine my two loves: writing and computers? Ding, ding, ding: technical writing! It wasn’t a career I necessarily set out to have, but now that I’m here, I fit like a Hand in Glove (the sun shines out of our behinds…a reference for those in the know to the best band of all time).

It was like my 17-year-old self was calling out to my 35-year-old self saying, “Hollah, girl! You know who we are, and you’re making us proud!” I wanted to kiss and hug my 17-year-old-self and tell her, “You are so amazing! And don't take yourself so seriously your freshman year at BYU! And don't live with Grandma; live in the dorms with all the other freshmen.”

You are amazing, middle children. But let’s not let it get to our heads. We know … we won’t. Firstborns and lastborns? They would let it get to their heads.

Friday, August 5, 2011

More Iterations of Me Turning into … My Mother

As if written from a pioneer journal, circa 1850s:

Today we bid adieu to Kulani at the airport. He was called away to Washington D.C. for an import/export conference.

I traveled with my four young girls to visit a friend in the Sugarhouse area who, at the age of 36, gave birth to her first boy. As my friend told me, motherhood is for the young. She appeared heavily burdened with the duties of a new mother and a husband out of work for these two years.

I left her a small gift and short greeting, as my 1-year-old girl was want to destroy all her belongings.

We traveled east toward Emigration Canyon. I was want to show the girls This is the Place State Park, a place my mother took me when I was young. It's a park dedicated to honoring the memories of the early explorers and Mormon pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley.

Across the street from This is the Place is the Hogle Zoo, and young Nohea, who is only 4 of age, expressed a desire to go there instead. But my oldest, Lilia, would not have it. Being Sunday, she didn’t think it appropriate to go to the zoo. However, she thought visiting a monument dedicated to Mormon pioneer settlers was a suitable activity on a Sunday.

She begrudged me when I bought a few trinkets from the Visitor’s Center: rattlesnake poo and Utah rocks. In honesty, the snake poo is chocolate-dipped sunflower seeds and the Utah rocks are made of chocolate. I thought they would be great trinkets to send to Grandma and Grandpa Christenson on their mission in Texas.

I also purchased four tickets so we could ride the train that travels around the pioneer village. It was a great replica to my liking. Every story of pioneer hardship made my eyes tear up with great drops of water. The girls did not share in my profound affection for these early Saints.

I asked the girls if they would like to have their wedding receptions in one of the recreated buildings. “Gross,” is what they thought of the act of marriage. Lilia is age 8; Lissy is 7; Nohea is 4; Lehua is 1. Perhaps they are still too young to think of marriage.

I could have stayed there all day reading all the stories and plaques. It amazed me completely to think of those early explorers traipsing over the vast western land of America, especially considering the hot mess that is the Salt Flats and Wendover area. How did they do it without even a 7-Eleven with which to quench their thirst? In my heart I said a little prayer thanking the Lord for his tender mercies such as the 44 ounce Big Gulp.

At times I could not read the plaques detailing the sorrows of those early settlers, as my voice would be choked with emotion. I received funny looks from the girls, as if I was wearing my garments upon my head. In time, they will take their girls to This is the Place, and we shall see who's weeping then.

As a seed becomes a tree. And on it goes.

Writer’s Note: After visiting the monument, my desire to learn more about my ancestry was peeked. I did a quick search for Edward Partridge, one of my great-great-etc. grandfathers and first bishop of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints. I remember my mother telling me stories of Edward Partridge, and she even helped me prepare a talk for Primary about him when I was young. I found this great article from the 1979 Ensign, written by Dean Jesse. Dean Jesse, coincidentally, was a next-door neighbor to us when we lived with Lani in Salt Lake City. His wife and Kulani’s mother are great friends.

Some interesting things I found about this article include:

  • Edward was considered to be without guile. I love that description.
  • Two of his daughters were polygamist wives to Joseph Smith, before he was killed. Later they became polygamous wives to Amasa Lyman. The article doesn’t say whether they divorced Amasa after polygamy was abolished and Amasa was excommunicated. But I get the sense that the two sisters were great friends, and especially helped each other in times of need. I love this line from the diary of Eliza (the line I am from):
“I thought my trials were very severe in the line and I am often led to wonder how it was that a person of my temperament could get along with it [polygamy] and not rebel; but I know it was the Lord who kept me from opposing his plans although in my heart I felt that I could not submit to them. But I did and I am thankful to my Heavenly Father for the care he had over me in those troublous times.”
I’m grateful for her honesty in that description.

  • Only one boy grew to adulthood from Edward, and his name was also Edward. He served a mission in Hawaii from 1854-57. Here’s what Edward Jr. wrote in his diary after he was called to be bishop:
“This is something that I have always had an instinctive dread of since I have had understanding sufficient to know what the office of a Bishop was.”
I’ve always believed that anyone who actually wants to be bishop has a screw loose in their head.