It’s a syndrome. We middles are clinically defined as problematic.
Think about it: the oldest child is coveted, which is implied in their royal birthright. The first. They are the keepers of their own room, entitled to the front seat and valued of their own opinions because the assumption, which is engrained in our younger (read: lesser) brains from birth: older is wiser. The first of the firsts, busy marking their territory and reinstating the rules.
The youngest, the baby, is nostalgia, a savior of a parent’s youth, the firsts of all the lasts and your annoying bunk/room mate. The bayyy-be (said with mocked elongation of each syllable) is preoccupied with the excess of attention and indulging in coddling and all of its pacifying glory.
The middle child is the forgotten kid, smack dab in between. We are the layer of lettuce inside a sandwich that you can barely taste, yet significantly unites the meat and cheese. Perhaps this just applies to my family, as we epitomize the birth order stigmas, but…
My older sister, Chelsi, is bossy, nurturing and demanding of her opinion. Meanwhile, my younger sister, Kristi, is a perfectionist, diligent, a strong leader. And then there’s me, the peacekeeper and people pleaser, who thrives on friendships and hates conflict. Mostly, I dislike being told what to do. I guarantee the first word spoken by most middle children was “no”, whereas the oldest’s was “mine” and the baby’s was “Mama.”
But ya see, here’s the thing, my admission: being the middle child is totally underrated and completely over diagnosed. The ‘oh, woe is me’ mantra that textbooks dramatize was clearly not defined by a middle child.
In fact, I love being the middle child and here’s why:
1. We reap the benefits.
The first child’s self-righteousness came with a side of ridiculously early curfews, an infrequent indulgence in sugar and the horrible, mom-approved style (I distinctly recall an abundance of polka-dotted shirts and self cut bangs). The baby’s over-pampering resulted in the most teasing (“mommy’s shadow”) and an intensive hazing ritual. The middle child can side step the mistakes the oldest makes, while still importing wisdom onto the youngest.
2. The MOH status.
I shall be Maid of Honor to both of my sisters. Why? Because they like me best.
I’m highly aware of how arrogant that sounds, but I won’t apologize for the truth. As a kid, I was closer to Kristi – my roommate, bug catcher, fellow trouble-maker, polly-pocket sharer and co-inventor of our own language (we once created a tongue in which we replaced the first character of every word with the letter “n,” for obvious reasons, it nailed) and P.I.C. in games and schemes (all of which involved pissing off Chelsi). Once my awkward-as-heck ugly duckling stage commenced (when does that end, by the way?), I developed a close relationship to Chels, sharer of secrets, crushes and advice, boys, grades and fashion. From my mid-teen years to now, I have a fabulous relationship with both. I win. Suck it.
3. We get away with it.
The first time Chelsi returned home visibly drunk, she was grounded for a few weeks and banned from wearing black eyeliner. Admittedly, the latter was a wise decision from my parents. Although normally I was much more sly, the first time I came home ridiculously wasted – mostly due to the puking. Way to play it suave, Linds. I was greeted with the greasiest McDonald’s meal, a milkshake and a stern “Just don’t let it happen again.”
An “I win” seems redundant and unnecessary here.
4. I am the mediator.
While I’m not solely responsible for decision making, (i.e. Chelsi) my input is semi-appraised and not totally satirized (uh ehm, Kristi).
Also, I’m Switzerland. I’m empathetic and laid back and I don’t have my s**t together, a refreshing perspective for my two sisters as I am the family screw up.
And since we abide by our roles, Chelsi is all like, “Hey, I’m the responsible, mature 86-year-old – who’s up for game night in a self-knit sweater and a pot of Chamomile tea?” Meanwhile, Kristi’s all, “I’m sleeping in today, I set my alarm for 4:15am and I plan to conquer the world, cure cancer and get rich and skinny before you eat breakfast. Anything else I can do for you, Mommy and Daddy?”
And yet, I’m over here pondering how to make coffee and beer complementary, fully responsible for keeping Tide-to-Go in business after staining all my clothes with peanut butter and barely capable of planning life day-by-day.
Obviously, this sounds like more of a con than a pro, but it can be refreshing to be relieved of pressure based solely on birth lineage. I’M FREEEEE.
5. The Creative Factor.
The plight of the middle child results in creativity, mostly because we’re forced to fend for ourselves, fight for attention and have our voice heard. Which consequently leads to several presidents – a role I will NOT be contributing to, but still, I appreciate the inclusion.
**NOTE: August 12th is National Middle Child Day. We have a day, an ironic and hilarious detail that we appreciate.
Lindsey is a 20-something nomad, in a tumultuous relationship with chocolate, red wine and NYC. Read more on her blog.
Featured Image via Shutterstock.