The Unique Challenge of Understanding My Middle Child
Middle children… need I say more? It seemed my middle child revealed herself as such before her baby sister had even arrived. Scientists say birth order plays a part in personality development, but not necessarily in the way that you would think. Personality does not hinge solely on whether a child is born first or fifth. Instead, they say, it’s the roles siblings adopt that lead to differences in behavior. And as parents we tend to enforce these roles, whether we realize it or not.
Middle children can be a little more challenging to label. This is because their personalities emerge in response to how they perceive themselves in relation to the next oldest sibling, birth order experts say. Middle children are usually the complete opposite of an older sibling in temperament and behavior (but not always), and they tend to be the most independent. If the older child is a parent-pleaser, you can almost bet your middle child is going to rebel for attention. To a middle child, older siblings reap all the rewards (or so it seems), and the baby gets away with murder. Because of this, the middle child will more than likely become an expert negotiator.
Middle children may also gravitate towards friends over family because they often feel left out. As parents, it can be helpful to recognize and respect their need for peers — create opportunities in which your middle child can meet new friends, whether this be through play dates, school or church. Middle children sometimes feel like they always have to share their parents — carve out special time for your middle child to make her feel special. Heck, why not do this for all of your children?
My middle child Emma Kate is brave, almost to a fault. She is constantly running into walls, falling down (sometimes over her own feet), jumping off of things she shouldn’t be, climbing higher than she should, and generally pushing limits. While we celebrate her individuality and fearlessness — traits to be admired, no doubt — sometimes I worry that Emma Kate is going to hurt herself; she is constantly covered in bruises and “ouchies”. What if my middle child’s independence turns out to be destructive?
Emma Kate is a fiercely independent two-year-old. Her favorite phrase of late is “I do it myself.” She wants to do everything her big sister does. And like most toddlers, she does not like to hear “no.” When big sister started school, I had to drag Emma Kate kicking and screaming away from the open door of the classroom. And then she cried all the way home. This happened every single day for a year. Did I mention she can be stubborn?
Emma Kate is highly intelligent. She has learned a lot from watching her big sister, which terrifies me for when they are teenagers. (There will be one year of our lives when all three of our girls are in high school at the exact same time. Lord, help us. I predict we will drink a lot of booze during this year.) Emma Kate loves spending time with us, but it has to be on her own terms. She is much less likely to sit and snuggle during an entire movie, so when she is in the mood for snuggles we soak them up like we might never see that side of her again.
We love our middle child to the moon and back, and we are pretty sure she loves us too. Except when she gives us her angriest, middle child sneer. You know what I’m talking about. Then we either leave her alone or bribe her with chocolate. Whatever it takes. 😉 Every day with a middle child is an adventure. One we wouldn’t change for the world.
What a blessing to have the opportunity to parent three such beautifully unique baby girls. I am sure you all feel the same way about your own middle children, even on the hard days. Our job will never be boring, that I can promise you. The world needs more middle children. They are one part beloved and another part bewildering.