Have you noticed that birth order makes a difference in the way children interact with each other? A few months ago, Becton invited a friend over who is the youngest in his family. He has high school and older aged siblings. Both boys – mine and this friend – have a way about them that says: “I roll with the punches. I deal with adults on a regular basis and they aren’t very different from me.” It was easy to let the boys play without intervention. They didn’t come screaming for “fairness” or help. They dealt.
More recently, Becton entertained a classmate from school who, at age 7, is the oldest child in her family. In the chaos of Christmas preparation and my niece in the hospital, I forgot about the “play-date.” Clearly, I had erred. But I got the impression that this was a bigger deal in that house than it might have been with the boy (and his mother) mentioned previously. In the girl’s home, vacation days start early because, well, little kids wake up early. Awaiting a play-date with a friend in the afternoon is an eternity! And then we didn’t show-up. Devastating. The young child’s household is organized around these planned events. It was for me too when Emily was 7, K.J. 5, Skye 4, and Journey 1. Eating, playing, napping, snacking, preschool or other organized events at designated times ruled the day.
But when you are 7 and live in a family with older siblings, people come and go without your knowing about it in advance. Some drive cars. Friends of your siblings show up and disappear. Snacks and meals are eaten at random times. Chores and homework and practices are scattered throughout the waking hours – and those vary too. You ask questions like: “Why can’t I have a phone too?” and “Why can’t I watch that show that [older sibling] is watching?” and “What do you mean that video is ‘inappropriate’?”
When the play-date with the girl was rescheduled, it went smoothly. But, I admit, I was more attuned to the sounds of the children playing. I was listening for my own child to “sound” like a sheltered 7-year-old instead of the over-exposed child that he is.
As if to make my point about his “maturity,” Becton arrived at my room last night, hands in pockets, glasses slipping down his nose, and asked, “What kind of card do you have?”
“What are you talking about?” I responded.
“What kind of card do you have?” he repeated.
“Do you mean ‘credit’ card?”
“Okay.” Becton turned and headed back out the door and down the stairs. A few minutes later he returned.
“What is the number?”
“What are you doing? Why are you asking for the number?”
“I made a Lady Gaga Skinit for my DS to get rid of the pink.” (This requires some explanation. Skye gave Becton her old Nintendo DS for Christmas. It’s pink. They both agreed that a boy shouldn’t have a pink DS, so Skye had encouraged Becton to find a Skinit to cover the pink.)
“What? Does Dad know about this? How much is this Skinit?”
“I don’t know. I’ll go check.” Again, Becton turns and leaves the room.
He returns momentarily and says: “$4.00.”
“And is the company going to mail it to you? How much is the shipping?”
Becton leaves the room again and returns with the answer: “$2.00. What is your number?”
“You want me to give you my credit card number. Did Daddy approve this?”
“Does Daddy have a credit card?”
I smile. “Yes. It’s the same as mine. And I’m not going to just give you the number.”
Becton replies, “I’ll go find Dad.” And he left.
I laughed. Then I texted John – who was in the basement watching football with K.J. – “Help,” and went back to reading.
A few minutes later, John appeared in the doorway. As I started to tell the story, John interrupted me. He said, “It gets better.” John went on to tell me that he had gone to the computer to see what Becton was doing. Becton had filled out all our identifying information, including billing address, correctly. John skipped ahead to look at total cost — $86.75! Becton had selected “next day shipping” at a price of $60+. Also, the Skinit itself was $23, not $4. John then had a conversation with Becton about fiscal responsibility and truth telling while Becton pitched a fit like a – well – like a 7-year-old.