Even before Jan Brady wailed those three, pitiful words, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” middle children all over the world have been trying to escape the shadows of their older siblings. Being an oldest child, myself, I’ve never really understood this struggle. Just ask my younger sister. I’m sure she will vouch for me!
However, when I became the mother of three boys, I became acutely aware of the middle child syndrome, and the importance of birth order. And I wanted to make sure that our middle son never had any reason to go postal. (Do people even still use that phrase? I’m not sure. It’s probably pretty dated because I don’t think I’ve read about any postal violence in recent months. Oh, well.)
The only problem was, I wasn’t really sure how to make sure he didn’t end up like the typical middle child. Never having been one myself and never having experienced the torment of an older sibling, I didn’t have a clear cut plan on how to protect him from this potentially, emotionally, crippling syndrome.
He will be turning 13 in a month and I have to say, and proudly so, that he shows no apparent signs of feeling unloved and neglected. And that’s good because he isn’t! Unloved and neglected, that is. If anything, we’ve probably gone overboard in the opposite direction to make sure he has never felt overlooked or left out.
Once again, this is not one of the things that gets covered in the happy parenting books we all read when we first find out that we are expecting. If someone is going to write a book about what to expect when I become a parent, I want it to be thorough enough so as to prepare me for the dangerous pitfalls of raising a middle child with damaged self-esteem.
Thankfully we have avoided the stereotypical middle child behaviors, and I’m not really sure how that happened. I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers, but part of it begins by making sure each child has the opportunity to be the “only child” every once in while. Over the years I have taken advantage of opportunities to spend one on one time with my boys; even if it means just the two of us going grocery shopping together.
I firmly believe that each child has to be treated and raised as an individual. What works for one child from a parenting stand point may not work for another – even if they do live in the same house with the same parents. Now please don’t confuse that with equity of treatment and discipline, because the other thing I strongly believe in is consistency. If a child is disciplined for not obeying, then the other siblings need to know the same sentence awaits them should they decide to break the rules.
Consistency in love, support and attention is just as important and along with our strong, family faith is what I believe has protected our middle son from ever feeling less than the other two.
So, if some day our middle man decides he ever wants to work for the US Postal Service, we don’t have a thing to worry about!
What is your birth order? Oldest, middle, youngest or only? And how did it effect you growing up? Leave me a comment and let me know.