I just saw that today, August 12th, is “National Middle Child Day”—at last one of those “we need to create a day so people buy greeting cards” days salutes those of us destined to be the sibling in the middle. It’s also National Vinyl Record Day and National Julienne Fries Day.
We’ve all heard about “middle child syndrome”; you know, when the oldest is the best and the brightest and the youngest is the smallest and in need of so much more caring, and the middle one is…wait, where is the middle one?…oh well, never mind; look at how bright and great the oldest is, and please take care of the youngest.
Okay, so maybe I’m not coming across with the lighthearted sarcasm that I want to show. Maybe that’s because, as all the other middle children will understand, the feelings are heavier on the sarcasm than the lightheartedness.
In my particular family line-up, I had the extra added attraction of being the youngest for the first six and a half years of my life; years later, when the two older ones where out of the house and I was in high school, I became the surrogate oldest. One might think that this would give me a broader perspective and enjoyment of all three “syndromes”, but the stigma of the middle child stayed firmly in place throughout. The “it’s not your turn yet” of waiting in line after the older two became “we need to take care of the younger ones” and my “turn” was thoroughly skipped.
The bigger point is that this situation gave me resourcefulness and resilience. I learned that I wasn’t going to be given things just because of my standing in the family line-up, nor would it be because I got to be babied through life. If I was going to get something it was because I set out to achieve on my own. And so I did.
I was also given a unique perspective that came in handy when I became a parent. The nearly seven years between the next youngest and myself, and the twelve years between me and the very youngest, allowed me to consciously witness their respective childhoods. So, when it came time to raise a child, I was able to draw upon what I learned from theirs as well as my own. And it wasn’t only what I witnessed in their respective childhood processes; it was the experience I got through being the significant care-giver for both of them.
When Kyle was around four years old, he began to ask about having a brother or a sister. Since his father and I were very near the end of our time together, it was an issue I was very vague about addressing with him. Then, one day as were we getting in to the car which was parked on a residential street in Napa, Kyle noticed two kids in the adjacent yard. The older of the two was taunting the younger one pretty mercilessly. I buckled Kyle into his car seat, walked around the car and got in, and just as I was bucking my own seatbelt, Kyle said in a very straightforward tone, “Maybe having a brother isn’t a very good idea.” With a “boy you hit the nail on the head” kind of laugh, I replied that, no, it wasn’t all happy and fun; and then I reminded him that I have four brothers and sisters and that none of them care anything about me and aren’t in my life, so I may as well be an only child.
While most will acknowledge along with me that only children have their day every day—there is an actual National Only Child Day. It’s on the same day as National Licorice Day and National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. It’s April 12th. Which is also my birthday.