stirring the pot

July 1, 2008

I’ve mentioned how I impressed Kim’s dad with my movie knowledge and cutting edge sense of humor soon after Kim and I were married. That went well.

But sometimes I step in it on purpose. All right, most times.

My Dad was a psychologist, and taught for years at the University of Minnesota. One of his areas of interest/expertise was birth order. You know, first child generally has these characteristics, second child has these others, and so on. In his system, you had first, second, third, fourth, and then it would start over, the fifth child would act like a first, etc. My parents had eight kids. I’m guessing he did some experimenting on us.

Anyway, Kim and I got married in Chicago, and at the wedding breakfast/brunch thing, Kim and I were sitting at a table with our parents, naturally. And somehow, the topic of birth order came up, along with raising kids, and family dynamics, that sort of thing. Someone said something about first children (Kim) and third children (me–well, I’m 7th, but in this system, that is like a 3rd), and how they interact. A perfectly ordinary topic, since Kim and I were getting married, and would do quite a bit of interacting.

Like many people, Kim’s dad wasn’t a fan of counseling and psychology, and thought birth order meant putting people in boxes, pre-defining them.

On the other hand, my parents saw birth order as a toolbox to help them figure out their kids, and parent more effectively.

Different strokes.

When Kim’s dad expressed his (not favorable) opinion about the theory and practice, having absolutely NO idea about my dad’s research, Kim got a bit nervous and pinched my leg, my parents just smiled and said nothing, but me, I couldn’t stop myself. And not because I’m a big adherent to the birth order theory or anything. Nothing noble. I just wanted to stir the pot. For fun. Between my parents and Kim’s parents. At our wedding breakfast. How stupid am I? On a stupid scale of one to ten, I must be an eleven, right?

“Actually,” I said, “it’s funny you should say that. My dad is an expert on birth order, and teaches it in his classes. I have a book with his name on it. You might say it’s his life’s work.”

Kim made the face her dad made when I told him the joke from Spinal Tap. I’m pretty sure she was doing some fast math on annulment procedures.

Fortunately, our parents are pros, and after a tiny awkward moment, they agreed in some vague way that, you know, different strokes and all that.

And I sulked, bothered that I hadn’t been able to spark some kind of Montague/Capulet controversy. Not even a cross word. No sparks, nothing. And I was bummed.

Seriously, eleven, right?


9 Responses to “stirring the pot”

  1. chtrich Says:

    eleven……or plentysix for sure.

  2. KanyonKris Says:

    It’s not that the parents didn’t want to get into it, they simply had a higher priority at the moment – get you two kids married and out of the house and bugging each other instead of them.

    And what about the money they had sunk into the wedding and reception? They’re not letting that go down the drain over some child theory debate.

    You are a master pot stirrer, but at that moment I doubt you realized you had essentially zero chance of getting your parents riled up. They had too much riding on making this union stick.

  3. KanyonKris Says:

    But bravo for trying.

  4. BotchedExperiment Says:

    I wonder what your dad would thing about ‘the loom of fate’?

  5. Bikemike Says:

    did you try passing some food type object through your nose?

  6. Kathy Says:

    Is stirring the pot typical third-child behavior? Maybe that’s why your dad was so over it.

  7. I’m interested in knowing more about your father because I have done a lot of work in birth order of the type he espoused.

  8. dug Says:

    cliff, this incident occurred back in 1990, and my dad died two years later. but regardless, he had given up teaching/research several years before that, and left the birth order research to his students. he split his time between family counseling (what he loved) and organizational behavior/corporate consulting (lucrative) after that.

    it’s funny, even now, with the youngest of her 8 kids in his mid 30s, my mom still will say, in response to certain behaviors, “well, he’s a 3rd child.” especially if i lay out all the options for an activity for a group, but then leave the actual decision to the rest.

    rather than boxes to hem us in, i see the birth order research as a way to identify tendencies that can either be exploited or mitigated, especially in interactions with others. ignoring them is like ignoring that you have a bad temper or an addictive personality.

  9. Thanks for sharing that about your father. Your appraisal of birth order is right on. My website is if you would like to check it out. Thanks again, Cliff

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