Diary, Life lessons
September 26, 2007 11:07 am
So I’m reading this book at the moment by Oliver James called ‘They F*** You Up’. The title is based on that poem by Philip Larkin:
‘They f*** you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra just for you.’
When I was at college (oh yes, I may be featherbrained but there’s an IQ buried deep in there somewhere) I really enjoyed sociology – all that nature vs nurture stuff is incredibly interesting – and this book is based along those lines. It’s all about whether you really do inherit certain traits from your parents, or if it’s how you’re brought up that makes a difference. James contends that how you were cared for during your first six formative years shapes the person that you are. Nurture, therefore, creates nature.
One interesting point was his argument against the ‘well I’m totally different from my brother/sister but was brought up exactly the same way’ argument. The author argues against this by saying that no, you weren’t brought up the same way. In a family all the children have their own little roles to play and, in turn, are treated differently because of it. Think about it for a minute: were you the oldest, given more responsibility and hence, the one who tried hard to please your parents and echo their values? Or maybe you’re the youngest: carefree and inclined to taking risks? Then there’s the middles, often rebels without a cause, off trying to find themselves and their role in life.
So, your parents treated you differently depending on when you arrived. They bestowed all their hopes and dreams onto you lucky (or unlucky) firstborns, expecting great things, but then quickly cast you aside if a second one came along and expected you to pull your weight. Being required to act responsibly often makes firstborns less inclined to take risks, leaving all the silly buggering about to us pampered and carefree lastborns. Lastborns, in turn, learn how to fit in with (or ‘suck up’ to) our responsible and sometimes bossy older siblings. This can make us good team players. Or, it can make us shifty little manipulators.
All these little quirks and foibles make our parents treat us differently, but that’s just the beginning – the treatment that we receive in our formative years can be affected by how we look, how far apart in age we are from our siblings… all sorts of stuff. But hang on, I thought, something’s wrong. You see, I’m the youngest and although my brothers will probably attest that I got away with murder or got to go to bed later or whatever, I’m certainly not the risk taking nutter that Oliver James reckons I should be. I’m not a team player either; in fact I’m an unsociable sod who has a very small but select group of friends to whom I am incredibly attached. Ah, but James can explain this too: lastborns, living in the shadow of their responsible older siblings, can also be less self confident, although they can also be easier going and more open to new experiences. And he’s right on numerous other things: I’m very affectionate and touchy-feely. And being my parents’ only girl, and a blonde one at that (apparently this is important), this would be borne out by the likelihood that I was cuddled, and possibly given the benefit of the doubt when naughty, more than average.
Captivating stuff eh? So okay, one shouldn’t spend too long analysing oneself. I’m sure it’s very unhealthy. But a little navel gazing can be thought provoking stuff. If you get a chance, buy this book. Or if you’re a sensible firstborn, borrow it from the library.