It’s Hard Being the Youngest

Photo courtesy of www.artsed4all.org

As a wannabe psychologist and sociologist I am fascinated by the impact of birth order on systems: family and organizational. As I cooly and objectively step back and observe the myriad of sibling “laboratories” in my own life, none is more important and meaningful than that of my own brood of three daughters.

As the oldest of four siblings, complete with sub-birth orders, I know that the eldest child might get some special treatment solely because we happened to be birthed first. Honestly though, I suspect that there are pluses and minuses to being born at any stage or order: first, middle, youngest, only, etc. Each “has it the hardest” or “has it the easiest” depending on the day of the week and we parents are constantly caught in the middle, never getting it exactly right.

*sigh*

But . . . while there are always exceptions based on circumstance, personality, etc., I do think that, in many ways, the youngest has a particular challenge when following siblings through the early stages of life. Older siblings can suck all of the energy and air from a room, school or activity leaving youngests to search for slivers of unoccupied space from where they can claim their individuality and express their personhood.

With two very different, but very strong older sisters, our youngest is no different.

Today is one of those important sibling days, as our youngest (pictured during a recent school run-athon) will find out if she was elected to the student council. We have noticed that there are times when she will do things precisely because her older sisters have or have not done them in the past, so the very fact that she decided to run for office is pretty amazing. In fact, both of her older siblings were elected to office, prompting a playful and affectionate comparison to “The Kennedy’s” by a friend.

No pressure ;-)

As I dropped her off today, we talked through what she may want to do if she does not get elected, “Be sure to offer congratulations to the winner.” or if she is elected, “Be sure to say thank you to the other candidates.” I let her know that it was going to be harder for some kids than others if they are not elected, but that, no matter what happens, mom and dad think she did a great job.

I admit, some of my council was precisely to help her navigate these kinds of social experiences with grace and gratitude, but it was also to pre-emptively remove expectations that are based at all on the actions of her older sisters. Comparisons between siblings happen easily enough on their own, so there is no need to reinforce one identity based on the identity of another.

As parents we must always be aware that we are raising three wonderfully unique human beings each formed by many factors, one of which is birth order. And as we tell them all the time, we love them each differently, we strive to parent each one according to their particular needs, struggles, joys and passions.

So win, lose or tie and regardless of what her older sisters have done in the past, today is Youngest’s day . . . hers, all hers.

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A Gift of Perspective in Discerning God’s Call

Photo by justininsd on Flickr

As many of you know, I left full-time ministry about 18 months ago after helping to start a church here in San Francisco. The impetus for my leaving had nothing to with some scandal or financial collapse, but rather about “call” and my own need to discern where God was leading me in ministry. The subsequent months have been filled with some awesome adventures and I am grateful for the luxury/blessing/privilege to wander a bit.

Throughout this time, I’ve been consulting, I released a book and I’m getting re-engaged with a local church community, all the while, I’ve been fully engaged in the process of discerning where God may be leading. And while there are no life-shattering “What’s next for Bruce” announcements to come - especially since the Stephen Drew trade has taken Oakland A’s shortstop completely off the table – some clarity is emerging and I have been able to better frame some possibilities.

Still, this time has become far more paralyzing that I had thought it would be because, like everyone else, I can over-think, over-analyze and base decisions on some time-frame that is built on my own ego needs and not fueled by where God may actually be leading. As part of my discernment, I am constantly checking in with the family to see how they are doing in all of this. This is a recent conversation between me and my daughters as I was contemplating serving in a local congregation somewhere or expanding in my speaking, writing and consulting work.

Me, “So, what do you think? Would you rather have daddy travel a little more, but when I am home, I am HOME. I can still be really involved in school, sports and other things? OR . . . would you rather have me travel less and be home more often, but have more meetings at night and not as able to be around as much during the day?”

*pause*

*thinking*

*pause*

Middle, “Whatever gets us two bathrooms the fastest, that’s what you should do.”

Eldest and Young enthusiastically nod in agreement, and echo, “Yeeesss, two bathrooms.”

So, even while some things are definitely becoming clearer, decisions are looming and I am feeling like some progress is being made, it’s good for me to be reminded that I am not the center of the universe and it REALLY is not all about me.  My natural tendency is be overly self-reflective, which often leads to justification for doing things that I want to do and not about what God hopes for me to become.

In this simple exchange, I have been invited back into faith and trust. God will speak when God speaks, I will hear when I am ready to listen and I will follow when I feel called. I just hope that there is a second bathroom in there somewhere ;-)


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