Meet Me In the Middle
For Lisa, Peter, Bridget, Johanna, Nathan, Kristina, Carlee, Erika, Eric, Beth, Dani, Suzanne, Joy, both of my parents, three of my grandparents, and all the other special middle children (young and old) in my life. And for my siblings, who made me the middle I am…whatever that means. -Sarah
This past Monday, August 12, was National Middle Child Day. I only found out about it because someone posted on a fellow middle child’s Facebook timeline what I first thought was an Onion article (check out the title), but was an actual news story on MSN. While I laughed at the tone, and then clicked through and laughed at this link about how to tell if you’re a middle child (hint, it’s a lot about being ignored, forgotten by your parents, or called by the wrong name), and this link, I wondered where I could find the articles about the benefits of being a middle child. For the record, I never felt neglected by my parents* (but in watching home videos, I was a bit of a ham and therefore probably did a lot to get attention). I take great pride in being a middle child (the “glue” of the family, if you will), and have done a lot of research about birth order (and middles in particular) so I thought I’d share some of what I see as positives of being a middle-born.
1. Sometimes it’s nice not having all the parental attention.
My siblings would probably point out the times that they wished Mom and Dad were paying attention elsewhere. And it’s true, often middle children rebel or act out because they know they can get away with certain things, but even if they’re as well-behaved as I am**, flying under the radar can have its benefits.
2. There’s almost always someone willing to play with you.
The downside of having only two years separating me from either of my siblings was that I only had one year from kindergarten until I went to college that I wasn’t in the same school as someone else.*** Since my younger sister also went to college in a “sister” city of my college town, technically, college was more of the same. BUT having siblings who were close to my age was awesome when we were younger (but probably not as awesome for my parents. Sorry). I acted out superhero/action figure/Pee Wee narratives with my older brother and house/Barbies/princesses/teachers with my younger sister. Although it got old when we were in our teens, sharing a room with my sister was one of the best parts of my childhood. It probably helped us (well, me, at least) have an easier time adjusting to college. I didn’t have to entertain myself as a kid, like Michael did before I was born**** or Libby did when I left for college.***** And though we’re all close, I would guess that both of my siblings would say that they are a little bit closer to me than to each other. Which makes me feel special.
3. If you do something first, it’s on your own terms. And it’s usually noteworthy.
Everyone expects the oldest child to hit certain milestones first, so when the latter-borns skip ahead, people usually sit up and take notice. Middle children tend to be more independent, which allows us to carve our own paths. Often, middle children try new things first, then the others follow suit.
4. The middle is the most diverse place in the birth order.
There are “true” middles (like moi and the ‘rents), those who fall exactly in the middle of an odd number of siblings. Then there are other middles who sort of float around (the fourth of five, say, or the second of seven). There are middles who were the youngest for a long period of time (more than five years is considered starting over in birth order). And it matters if you’re an oldest middle (like I am) or a youngest middle (if my brother and sister flipped places), the middle of three of the same sex, or the only girl sandwiched by brothers.
5. We’re in good company.
The following are all middle children:
Nelson Mandela, MLK Jr., Bill Gates, Madonna, Princess Di, Julia Roberts, Warren Buffett, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and JFK. In fact, 52 percent of all U.S. Presidents have been middle children.******
6. Being in the middle gives us character.
And good character traits, like a sense of fairness and justice. Many middles are more successful because of their middle traits. We tend to be more patient, since we’ve had to wait for things,******* and often make good negotiators because we’ve had to communicate with those both older and younger than we are. We also tend to be peacekeepers, avoiding confrontation as much as possible. Can’t we all just get along and, while we’re at it, watch what I’m doing?
7. We’re becoming a rarity.
With only children on the rise, and two-kid families the steady norm, middle children are slowly becoming extinct.******** So, even if you “forgot” or “didn’t realize” or “totally ignored”********* the fact that it was Middle Child Day on Monday, you can still take the time to appreciate your middle siblings. They probably won’t know what to do with the unsolicited attention.
*Except that one time Dad forgot me at summer band. But he was more likely to mix up Libby’s name (with the dog’s) than mine, so I think it’s even.
**No need to ask my parents or siblings for corroboration…
***That was pretty much the only good thing about 7th grade, a very awkward time in Sarah’s life. So awkward, it requires third-person language to describe it.
****Clearly the most boring two years of his life.
*****How did she ever manage?
******Take that, first-borns.
*******I’m fairly impatient at times, so I’m not sure this applies to me. But maybe that’s because I’m a middle at the end of the alphabet (children with later letter last names–tongue twister!–tend to have to wait longer for things in school, since everything is alphabetical. Don’t get me started).
********Like redheads. Or the middle class. If you’re a redheaded middle class middle child, please contact me. I’d like to interview you for a story…