Monday, April 24, 2017

Are you a middle child?


It's hard. Even though we have every reason to be done having babies - two healthy, beautiful children; a girl and a boy; life is so much easier with just two - I find myself thinking about having a third anyway. Why is that? In my mind, we are done, but it doesn't change the fact that I want another pregnancy, another birth, those newborn days again. I want to see another baby roll over, smile for the first time, take their first steps, crouch in that gorgeous gnome-like baby way, pick up peas with pudgy fingers. I want to experience all of it again, with a new little person whose personality and self I don't yet know.

But, one thing that comes up again and again for me is middle child syndrome. It's the idea that the middle child gets left out over and over again, with lasting consequences. They're not the oldest and most skilled, doing everything first and they're not the baby, who no matter how old they get always remains the baby. The middle child is just that, stuck in the middle. I can't stand the thought of doing that to Theo. He is so sweet and perfect.

Of course middle child syndrome is a theory, not a fact. And why am I thinking about this anyway? I feel like I'm getting too old to have another baby. Some days, my kids take up every ounce of energy and patience I've got. I wish we had started earlier and given ourselves more time to do this, but we didn't. Maybe that's why I can't stop thinking about it. Time is running out. Will I regret not having another baby later, once it's too late? Or would I regret making Theo a middle child?

So I want to hear from all the middle children out there. What do you think? Is it just ridiculous? Or do you think you'd be better off if your younger sibling had never come along? (Now that sounds ridiculous! Maybe I just answered my own question?!) Please chime in in the comments below. If you're a parent of three, did you factor middle child syndrome into your decision? Or am I just that neurotic? Haha! I'm just curious. Tell me all about it!

11 comments:

  1. I was the baby of two...for twelve years then my mom and dad had another baby & then another. That was odd to go from baby to middle child at such an awkward already stage in development. As excited as I was to be gaining a baby to play with (what a dream!) I also struggled with my place in the family and didn't want to enter teenage years. In many ways I was immature, I still wanted to be and elementary kid.

    I think we are done with the two but the decision is never easy. Especially with these two growing so quickly, it feels like sand slipping through your fingers and having one more feels like a way to pause it all. I don't do the baby stage very well even though I adore toddler and beyond. And things are just becoming easier with a 4 & 7 year old. No strollers, hotels don't seem like an insane idea, dependable sleep. So...yeah. Sigh.

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  2. I'm 31 and we have a 7mo baby. Even though my husband and I have been together since I was 19 and he was 21 (like you, we met in college) we wanted to wait until I finished my doctorate and felt more settled before we started having kids. Some days I'm glad we waited because I can't imagine the stress of internship matching and neuropsychology postdoc placement with a little one (my training took us from CA to OH to MA). However, more often than not, my husband and I ask "why did we wait?" Now I'm savoring this age but also lamenting that I have the pressure of time to factor in as we plan our family.

    I have always been interested in birth order and personality. As a psychologist, I have done some digging around in the literature and there is almost no research to back up the anecdotal evidence that we hear about all the time. Of course our siblings affect who we are but the patterns don't really bear out in the data. There is some mild evidence that firstborns score slightly higher on intellectual measures but there is little evidence of birth-order effects on personality or behavior (like extraversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, imagination.) Here is an Atlantic article that summarizes: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/10/birth-order-is-basically-meaningless/411577/

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    1. Thank you, Flannery! You're such a reliable source. :)

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  3. I'm a middle child! My older sister is 3 years older than me and my younger sister is 20 months younger. I never felt like there was anything bad or negative about it at all. I remember the first time somebody (an adult) made a comment to me about "the poor middle child" I felt very confused. I think that it mostly is in your attitude, and that parents' attitudes shape their children's attitudes for the most part.

    Every family is different, and I think that most kids grow up assuming that their dynamic is the default. My biggest resentment as a kid in my family was that my older sister got all the big cool things first, but then my younger sister typically got them right around when I did. ie My older sister got a multi-speed bike for her 10th birthday, and then I did, but my younger sister got one not long after I did. Repeat for many similar privileges and gifts. As an adult, I can see why this made sense in our family dynamic: having one child "left out" from a privilege that the other two share is a lot different than having one child "aged into" it while the other two are still waiting. Leaving my younger sister behind all the time would have set up a de facto system where my older sister and I were playing in ways that she couldn't easily join in on. (or if we could walk to the pizza shop together because we had passed the magic age, but she couldn’t come because it “wasn’t her turn” – that would just be awful and would have turned rites of passage into a kind of hazing almost.) So even though I enjoyed having a nice bit of self-pity about it every so often as a kid, I think it was a valuable chance for me to learn that what is most fair, or most right, is not always what is most equal. My parents explained to me, when necessary, that my sister getting something did not take anything away from me, and pointed out that I had a lot more fun when she could come ride bikes (or whatever) with me - that it not only didn't harm me to have her receive gifts right on my heels, but it often made my life happier and better. It was a complex and worthwhile thing to reconcile within myself.

    Mostly, I felt lucky to be in the middle because it meant that I could "swing" to either side. If I was mad at my younger sister, I could easily go play with my older, whereas their five-year age difference just made that a bit less fluid and effortless for the two of them on their own (if they wanted to exclude me). We all played together very well, but I still felt almost bilingual in a way - I was like a versatile piece of clothing that can be dressed up or down - I could play "up" or "down." I could be the kid sister to my older sister's friends, or the older kid to my younger sister's friends. It gave me a social flexibility that I think I still use to this day - an innate knowledge not on how to "change myself" to fit into different settings but more just how to indulge and express certain aspects of my personality to fit in best and have fun in each individual setting.

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    1. I even enjoyed getting hand-me-downs. I was the middle, but I was mostly the same height as my younger sister and eventually the shortest (alas), so I was at the end of a long line of cousins and family friends when it came to clothing. People often bill hand-me-downs as a total drag but I loved the anticipation of seeing clothes on my older sister or on friends and looking forward to the day that they'd be mine. It was so exciting when they finally were! It was always way more exciting than getting new clothes, haha. It felt like I'd arrived. Now that we are all within a couple inches and about ten pounds of each other, handing clothes around is one of our favorite ways to stay connected - we don't live near each other anymore and nothing makes me happier than seeing Facebook photos of my older sister looking amazing in a cardigan I just decided didn't warrant space in my closet anymore, or wearing my younger sister's old wool sweater on a miserably snowy day. It feels like those old childhood days where so much of my clothing came with good memories already attached.

      In addition to my 2.5-year old son, I have two older stepsons, ages 11 and 7. And my toddler will be just under 3 when my second son, the fourth kid total, is born. I have enjoyed giving my toddler the somewhat unique chance to be both the "baby" (when the stepsons are home) and the "only" (when they aren't) but I am extra-excited to give him a chance to be the "older" and the "middle" instead. I feel lucky that I get to have a "middle kid" without actually having to be pregnant three times, lol!

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  4. I'm the middle of three girls and while we fought like cats in a sack when we were little, it had nothing to do with birth order and more because we all had such different personalities. I'm the tallest, most ambitious, and bossiest of the three. My youngest sister will always be the baby and she's very sweet, generous, and outgoing. My oldest sister is loyal and a hippy, the most sensitive and most like our mother. I am so thankful every day I have sisters who are nothing like me but everything to me. I was never "forgotten" as the middle child because I was too busy being loud and in charge ;)

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  5. I'm the middle of three girls and the ONLY time I ever think about being 'the middle child' is when an unknowing person from a non-three kid family asks me how it feels. And honestly, I always think: "What? Am I supposed to feel different? How would anyone ever get this idea in their head that middle kids have it the worst?"
    I think it's all about the parents' attitudes. There was never any discussion or jokes about me being the middle child - to my parents I was just their kid! Nothing birth order was going to change! I have not one memory of feeling left out or lost in the shuffle. Granted, I am the most easy going of all my siblings, but I think that's a naturally acquired trait for having multiple siblings.
    I love my sisters more than anything, and both are my best friends. I can't imagine life without my little sister! I think if you're feeling the urge to have another, go for it. From all the mothers I've talked to, they've only ever regretted not having another or trying when it was too late (when they felt that urge).

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  7. I always felt lucky being a middle child, because I was the only one in the family with both an older and a younger sister. I also liked not having to do something first, and not having to do something last. And as an adult looking back, I still feel the same. If one could choose birth order, I'd choose being in the middle.

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  8. All of these comments are so amazing! Thank you for sharing and putting my mind at ease. Now I feel like if we do actually want a third baby there is no reason to hold back! But the jury is definitely still out. It changes daily, I"m afraid! ;)

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  9. I am right with you when it comes to dwelling on the question of whether or not to have a third. But my baby is only 6 months-old, so I don't even know why I'm stressing over the decision yet! I'm also a middle child, and I have to admit that I never even considered that it would be a disservice to my son to make him a middle child, too. I do think that I have developed certain personality traits because of our family dynamic and my role in the family growing up, but if anything I think being a middle child has benefited me. I'm diplomatic and very attached to all of my siblings. I personally wouldn't have it any other way!

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