Dr. C.George Boeree
Psychology Dpt, Shippensburg U.
As the first-born of six children, I know I have some of the stereotypical personality characteristics as discussed by Jeffrey Kluger in “The Power of Birth Order“, but I also know that many other factors have “created” my personality.
Among us six children we had “mini-families” such as:
- the first three were girls & the last three, boys — a very affective element to all our personalities in that the girls were expected to be the house cleaners & caregivers while the boys were afforded much more freedom & were taken care of; and
- the first four children were born within five-½ years [before the advent of the birth control pill] with a gap of four years before the fifth child, then a gap of five years before the sixth child — by this time I was 13 yrs old & my next sister 12.
As the oldest of a large brew, I grew up babysitting & was a “professional” making money from the neighbours before I was 12 — whereas my two younger sisters did not start babysitting outside the home until they were a couple years older because they were doing more of the family babysitting by then. Of course I was responsible, of course I followed the rules, of course I was a teacher — this was my role; to be a good model for my siblings.
I did have the higher “official” IQ & am the only one that has gone to university but I don’t think this necessarily makes me the “smartest” of all of us. I was the first grandchild for both sets of grandparents & did get a lot of attention — for 13-½ months until my second sister was born. My two youngest brothers both graduated technical programs. They each received a lot of attention growing up; both from our parents as well as from their older caregiver sisters — in this case they have characteristics of first-borns. Kluger discusses how the number of siblings can create holes in birth-order theories. (Kluger, 7)
My youngest sister has personality traits of being the youngest (of the girls) but also of being in the middle — my eldest brother was born 13-½ months after her so she wasn’t the youngest in the family for long. When she complained about the lack of photographs of her as a baby compared to the rest of us, we told her she was adopted!! Of course, it was easily explained — as the third girl with 3-½ & 2-½-yr-old sisters, no-one had the time or interest to take a lot of pictures but when the first boy came along, the cameras came out again.
I didn’t often feel the freedom to “be creative” — to go outside the rules. But I also didn’t recognize when I was being creative in my everyday life because I didn’t always recognize the product. I had to be very creative to balance the budget when I was a single working mom of three young boys. I had to be creative to keep 26 Wolf Cubs interested in activities for two whole days at camp.
As a computer programmer, I learned a very structured, detailed, precise method of construction for computer systems — it reminded me of the precise steps involved in sewing clothes. My sisters & I learned basic sewing skills from my mom who sewed a lot of our clothes from the time we were young — all of us added our own creative flair when we started making our own clothes. As with sewing — my two sisters have won awards at the Calgary Stampede Agricultural Fair — more than a few of us looked upon some of our computer coding as “works of art” and even left our “signature” with the date and a couple lines of description. Many people, though, would argue there was no creativity in programming — it’s just a coded language to communicate with a computer and there is only “right” (i.e. it works) or “wrong” (it doesn’t work!).
Anyone can sew — everybody in grade 8 Home Ec had to make a simple apron — and pretty well anyone can make a simple computer program if guided. And each product will be unique. But it is in the finishing touches where you see the creativity come through. Building upon that original uniqueness, an artist will “instinctively” add to that product what they “feel” is needed. In A Self-Defining Game for One Player: On the Nature of Creativity and the Possibility of Creative Computer Programs, Harold Cohen says “it is directed less by what the individual wants the single work to be than by what he or she wants the work as a whole to become.” (Cohen, 59-60) A seamstress can choose to change the shape of a sleeve or put on unique buttons or embroider something on the material; a computer designer will use colour, fonts & other assorted goodies to provide aesthetic appeal. In each case, it is the part of the artist’s personality infused into the product that makes it creative.
This course has produced a very unexpected, profound aspect in me that is apparent in my writing — I’ve been forced to delve into the quagmire inside of me. And it is by no means the end — can we ever know ourselves completely? I do know that I have started down an exciting creative path that I have been struggling for years to find. And I’m looking forward to reviewing many of our readings & delving further — Cohen says:
. . . creativity involves moving through a series of intermediate states that are significant to the degree that they are increasingly closer approximations to some weakly defined but strongly sensed further-off goal. The creative individual does not find those approximations, because they are not there to be found; they don’t exist until he or she constructs them. (Cohen, 60)
I know not where I will end but my creative being is screaming to be released — now is the time to produce these “weakly defined approximations”.
Cohen, Harold. A Self-Defining Game for One Player: On the Nature of Creativity and the Possibility of Creative Computer Programs, LEONARDO, vol. 35, no. 1. unk. pub.: 2002.
Kluger, Jeffrey. The Power of Birth Order, Time Atlantic, vol. 170, issue 19. unk. pub.: 11 Dec 2007. http://ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&deb=a9h&AN=27455121&loginpage=Login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site