From what I understand about child psychology, which is not much, the most common indicator for the personality of a child is birth order. Only-children like my wife, are a special category that are different from being the first born.
Our first born, Calamity Jane, follows the typical traits pretty closely. She is the center of attention and wants to please authority figures. If she thinks you are disappointed then it is more soul crushing than any other form of discipline. She hates injustice and if she thinks she is right, she will fight to no end.
The second child, Prima-the-Ballerina, is also a predictable child by the birth order method. She is very creative and a passive personality. A tall child, we originally saw her as an enforcer for her older sister. They differ in age by two and a half years but they wear the same size clothes. Alas, Prima is not an enforcer. She enjoys watching others succeed and is happy to follow someone else’s leadership.
So far this is good news! I can just look in the book and see what it says about the third child right?
I can read about a First, Second, Last, and Only Child. No third. I am on my own and if I have to judge by the evidence then our third child will be an aggressive growth company CEO or will develop a network of organized crime. That is why I refer to her as Don Threeto (pronounced THREE-TOE) or D.T. for short. I know a lot of you may be thinking, “Come on Underdaddy, that is a bit extreme for a three year old.”
Is it? Let’s take a few minutes to go through the evidence.
Personal Drive (Hard headed)
This kid is determined to do whatever the hell she wants to do with no regard to consequences. She watched her sisters running and playing around the house and decided she wanted to join them. At six months old she pulled up on the side of the couch and learned to shuffle around. It made me think that each child would naturally start walking faster each time. Lady Bug showed us that rule doesn’t apply when she was content to wait until well after one year but that is another story. Don Threeto fell constantly into walls and over her own feet. Children aren’t meant to walk at six months. They have a big head and little skinny legs, like balancing a watermelon on stilts. The Don refused to be defeated. At nine months she was walking and somewhat running around after her sisters.
I imagine there are some readers who again question my story. They may be saying, “There is no way she was cruising around at six months.” That is exactly what I said when I watched her release her hold on the couch and teeter into a wall. I got tired of trying to make her sit down and her screaming at me. Fine. Go faceplant into a wall, hardheaded brat. She did but eventually she mastered life on two legs and hasn’t stopped yet.
Strategic Mind (Sneaky)
The Don is a watcher. She considers cause and effect and human behavior. She is not even four years old yet. The older two follow the rules according to mom and dad. The Don knows the laws of nature.
The first time I ever witnessed this was when she had a small toy that she was enjoying and Prima took the toy away. She considered crying for a second and instead thought about why the toy was stolen. I was about to intervene when she picked up a small toy and looked at her sister out of the corner of her eye. Of course I thought she was going to throw the toy out of frustration. She did not. She acted like that toy was the most fun toy she had ever seen. Jabbering and swinging it back and forth through the air until it caught the attention of the same older sister. Prima drops the first toy and comes over to steal the new fun toy. The Don lets it go, waits a few seconds to sell the fake, and then picks up her original toy and walks away. Not yet two years old and she Tom Sawyer-ed an older sister.
Another example of her blatant disregard for the law is at bedtime. Mom and dad say bedtime and she isn’t ready… No problem. She learned quickly that she would be made to go to bed on time. One evening I happened to get up for a glass of water and I learned her game.
We have a bonus room above the garage and the stairs exit off of the living room. As I walked past the darkened stairs I hear a child talking and whispering softly. Naturally, I assumed we had built our house on an Indian Burial Mound and that I needed to hide all my weapons before a spirit possessed my body. Any brave protector type fathers would have rushed up the stairs to meet the danger. I hung out in the kitchen and listened for a second until I could be sure it was Don Threeto. Even then I was hesitant because that kid is kind of scary.
I call up to her, “Honey, what are you doing? It is past bedtime.”
“I’m weeding (reading).” She knows she is caught so she puts on the charm. She knows she can’t read yet.
“You have the book upside down but either way go to bed….Please?”
The Don always goes to bed quickly and immediately lies still and fakes sleep. I have found her stacking solo cups in the living room, smuggling stuffed animals out of storage, and putting all of the books that we own into her bed. For one of the loudest children I know, she sure does have some good stealth at night.
We have covered Personal Drive and Strategic Thinking but what about….
Physical Intimidation (Scrappy)
The Don is small and unassuming. She is maybe thirty to forty pounds soaking wet; a short and skinny ball of energy. She is tough.
On the subject of “taking it” the Don started early with competing with her sisters. She would try and take something away from them and they would swat at her. She would close her eyes and turn her head to the side and fight through the smacks to the face. Just the other day I walk into the living room and I am in disbelief. Prima has both hands made into fists and punches DT in the stomach. She falls back on the couch as I yell out, “PRIMA! What are you THINKING?” She holds her hands up and says, “She told me to!” Sure enough, DT stands up and smiles and says, “Do it again!”. Sometimes intimidation is showing your opponent what you can take. Well played.
One of the better examples of fearlessness was when she had been misbehaving and wouldn’t listen to our corrections. She kept messing with something dangerous like an electrical cord and I told her, “I’m going to count to three and then you will be in trouble!” She didn’t look up at me but kept pulling the electrical cord. I said, “Oooonne” in a drawn out warning. She answers with, “Twooooo”. She called my bluff and I can’t stop now. “Three!” She immediately smiles and raises both hands in the touchdown pose and yells, “Spanking!!!” I couldn’t do anything but laugh. You win again DT.
DT also “dishes it out” and usually at the older sisters. They are bigger and stronger but somehow I always respond to crying to find the older two sobbing and cowering with Don Threeto giving me that “What did I do?” look. I ask what happened and for some reason no one is talking.
Absolute radio silence.
I did happen to witness the end of an exchange that they didn’t think I could see. Prima and the Don were wrestling and they heard me tell them to “cut it out” and Prima released DT. Before she could get away DT pulls Prima close and hits her with two quick jabs to the kidney and then lets her go like nothing happened. Prima grunts but also shakes it off and they go about their day. I guess Prima needed to be reminded of something or she owed her some candy.
My parenting fail is deciding if I should allow this structure of self-policing because it is easier or because it teaches each of them a lesson about the real world. Either way I am justifying “no action” so I guess it doesn’t matter why. Actually I am probably even worse because my advice to the older children is to defend themselves so she will stop. What normal situation do you tell your seven year old to “Punch her and she will stop that crap.”?
For the parents who have a child that is outside of the current research, this post is for you. Take solace in the fact that difficult children will be difficult for the world to run over too. You’re welcome.
Underdaddy to the rescue.