You swear it will never happen in your family. To your kids. To you. You watch TV shows and read books making light of the “middle child syndrome” and you laugh it off because if you focus enough on just being a good parent, you will never let that happen to your child.
Until it does.
Those middles. Those amazing middles who just make it so easy for you to overlook their quiet needs because of the loud demands from the oldest and youngest.
You spend so much time with your oldest – when they are the firstborn and ONLY – and then forever through their childhood as they are the first. The new. The experiment if you will. You make your decisions and mistakes by these oldest children as you learn what you are doing. In this process you become so in tune with their moods and demands, that it’s easy to forget some of the rest of your brood. You pay attention to them always because you wonder if you’re doing the right thing – the right school, the right food, the right time to date, the bedroom decorated just so. Newness takes time and nurturing and thought – your oldest gets all of these things.
And that baby. That last child. Cute, sweet ‘widdle’ bundle of a baby. Always your baby. Even at 15, right? That baby is spoiled by you and everyone else who bows down to their every single need. Your days and years are formed by doing things that are youngest child appropriate, and by their nap and sleep schedule, and damn their just overall cuteness that drives attention to them.
But that middle. That Middle. Those flexible, easygoing, take it as it comes Middles. Until one day when they no longer accept that as an excuse for disappearing from your immediate view.
You find yourself looking at homes – and picking out the perfect bedroom for your baby and your oldest and saying things about your middle “Oh, she can just room with anyone – it will all work out.” That Middle who does activities that her oldest sister does because of convenience. She’s easy. She eats everything without complaint. She’s quiet and sweet and a tries to please people to almost to a fault.
Until she doesn’t anymore. And instead of yelling “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” She finds her voice. What she likes. What she doesn’t like. Classes and interests that she wants to explore alone. Her quiet disposition blossoming with her growth. She’s noticed. And our guilt grows with her.
I wonder if these middles are born with special powers. Their sweetness and going with the flow-ness. I wonder if they get sick of it and want to just not have a hand-me-down coat for once.
And in the busy-ness of family life we make an effort to snuggle and talk with our middle. To not make her a middle. To not lose her in the chaos – but sometimes her soft, sweet, and kind disposition just makes it too easy for us to forget.
So I tell her to use her voice! And what can we do? And what do you want to do?
And she tells me she’s fine and happy.
And damn she is. Such a happy child. The baby that smiled all day and never cried. Ever. That knew her toddler sister needed that attention. That girl who made going to kindergarten a breeze because of how overwhelmed I was with a new baby at home. That girl with the biggest heart for animals and bugs and nature. And who, I kid you not, knows the names of probably all of the 1400 kids at her school. And listens and loves with such force and grace.
There’s a special place in the world for these Middles – and I know that our Middle has the heart and humor big enough to live out her dreams. Even when we happen to spend too much time without her in the center focus of our lens.
So fly my girl. And take the lead you so rightly deserve. Your wings are beautiful and your course perfection. And make Jan Brady just a silly myth.