My mom owned a copy of The Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman and since my mom is a first born, I am absolutely positive she read it cover to cover. This summer, I had the privelage of hearing Dr. Leman speak at a Boy Scout conference. I decided to buy my own copy of his book because I’ve never been quite sure where I fit in.
You see, all my siblings are half siblings…some old enough to be my parents. My closest sibling is 14 years older and the only one who was still in the home when I was little. I knew the age gap kept me from being a true baby of the family, but beyond that I wasn’t sure.
Well, turns out I am what Dr. Leman calls a Functional Only Child. My sister half-jokingly nicknamed me The Golden Child. However, she is often called The Pampered Princess as the baby sister of her full siblings, so really she has no room to talk (love ya, Penny!)
So, what does it mean to be a Functional Only Child? Well, apparently it means I am a self-centered, hyper-perfectionist, who likes to have things her way! HA! As a family friend says, “It’s funny cuz it’s true.”
Yep, you got me. I have high expectations that rarely get met, I set the bar for myself and others out of reach in the name of seeking excellence, and I have a hard time thinking outside myself.
And I never feel quite “good enough”.
This is one of those things that can easily hinder a believer’s walk. Someone like me is always searching for ways to perfect what Christ has already done. I *should* be a better housekeeper. I *should* be a gentler mother. I *should* be perfect every moment of every day.
Yet, I can’t.
You would think I would realize that my imperfection is exactly the reason I need the Lord’s saving grace, but I struggle against this. I am a child of the King and yet I find myself discouraged when I can’t do better.
Now, don’t get me wrong…striving for excellence is an admirable thing and something the Lord is in favor of. But, perfection is NOT something He expects. In fact, He KNOWS I can never accomplish perfection on my own. And I will never accomplish perfection in this life. I can only strive to do things as unto Him. I can set goals and work toward them as long as the goal isn’t to be perfect.
As for being self-centered…I think many, many people struggle with selfishness. Don’t most of us want our way? Don’t most of us think our ideas are the best? Don’t most of us think the world would be better off if they would all just listen to us and follow our advice?!
However, I think selfishness becomes an issue when the whole day becomes a wash because something didn’t work out how we would have liked it to. It becomes an issue when we find ourselves irate with someone who doesn’t do things exactly as we would like. It becomes an issue when we can’t roll with the punches and realize that the fact that not everyone is like us is OKAY.
The Lord wants us to consider others ahead of ourselves. That doesn’t mean we never express an opinion, but it does mean we accept that we might not have all the answers.
Learning about how your birth order effects your decisions and your personality is important. I would encourage everyone to become familiar with the characteristics of first borns, onlies, middles, and babies because it explains a lot. However, there is no need to pigeon-hole yourself simply because you have a propensity towards behaving your birth order. I’ve learned to lower my expectations. I’m not perfect at it and still manage to find myself disappointed when something doesn’t go “just so”, but I much better than I used to be. I’ve learned to listen to others, ask them questions, and not always feel like I need to be the center of attention. And I’ve realized that the Lord saved me while I was yet a sinner, and if I am striving to live my life for Him, then I am doing exactly what I *should* be doing. His love isn’t contingent upon how well I do at being perfect…just as my love toward my husband and children and others should not be contingent upon how well they do at living up to my less-than-realistic standards.
It’s a tough lesson for us Onlies to learn. And you first-borns are right up there with us. In fact, I think it is these two groups who have the hardest time with the Me Time Myth. We’re the ones who feel we need a break from all the imperfection around us. We can’t think straight because we’ve bitten off more than we can chew and we still have to live our “real” lives when we’d rather our “real” lives would take a backseat to all our projects.
But, you can learn to let go. You can enjoy your “real” life with or without the projects. You can stop expecting everyone around you to live up to your expectations and still love them. You can learn to trust the LORD to be the finisher and perfecter of your faith.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”