Knowing Your Place in the Pecking Order of Things

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Second-Born's collection of stuffed animals.

Jen Hollidge, Not for Nothing

Jen Hollidge, Not for Nothing

Responsibility is not the job of the second-born child.

That is the realm of the first-born and I really should have known that when I handed Little Miss Youngest (second-born) $40 this morning for her field trip. “I need a baseball hat, mom, to keep the sun out of my face and my water bottle leaks.”

“A Hat and water bottle ONLY!” I tell her, “and bring me back what’s left!”

I’m a third-born. My older sister and brother shouldered the responsibility for me, and subsequently were there to tell me what to do and when and how to do it. I know that levels of natural responsibility-taking diminish with each sibling’s birth order.

Third-born — Like me, as free as the granola bar wrappers left behind by my children that dance around the back seat of my car, tempting to fly out the window when I hit the highway.

First-born — Like those favorite pair of jeans you wear on every day-off, with flip flops or heels, they do what they are relied upon to do, trusted to do, without fail.

Second-born — Politicians.  Tricky creatures. They will convince you that they are like the first-born, then when given their shot, will behave like a third-born.  They will also talk their way in, and try to talk their way out again.

This is where I find myself when, at the end of the day, Little Miss Youngest, true second-born, hands me back $1 from the $40 I gave her this morning.  I bought this little politician’s promises and it cost me $39 and a realization of my continuing gullibility.  She continues her campaign by trying to sell me on each of her purchases, which do not include a baseball hat, but do include a water bottle, a personal fan that spritzes water, another stuffed animal (adding to the 97 that overflow her bookshelf) and snacks that came in all sorts of wrappers, because she truly and absolutely needed them.

I stuff the $1 into my pocket and we ride home from day camp in silence for a while, my disappointment settling in, until she speaks up from the back seat. “Mom, do you think that we can take my dolls for a girl’s day out with a friend? It’s really important because…” and I’m flabbergasted that she’s campaigning for more money-spending right now.  Where is her sense of responsibility? Doesn’t she realize that she has broken my trust?

I roll my eyes and sigh in frustration. I inhale sharply, ready to launch a motherly tirade on how I feel about her second-born ways, her campaigning and lack of restraint until, in my rear view mirror I catch a loose granola bar wrapper in the back seat dancing wondrously in the breeze. I am quickly reminded of third-child, myself, carefree by nature and dancing, still sometimes, wondrously in the breeze.

I see Little Miss Youngest in the back spritzing herself with her fan and hugging her new stuffed animal with pure affection and joy. I bite my tongue and enjoy the moment.

“We’ll see,” I say, “but first you owe me some chores.”

I’m Jen Hollidge, a full-time program coordinator, full-time mother of two amazing daughters and full-time wife to my partner in crime for 18 years. We live in Concord, N.H. I have an English degree from the University of New Hampshire and I love to write.