It’s time to talk about my middle child, because I tend to carry a lot of guilt and anxiety about her and just push it aside. But I’m facing those feelings today; naming the reality. Maybe some mom somewhere is dealing with similar feelings. I’d love to read a helpful idea that I could glom onto.
No sibling experience is exactly the same; I know. But my middle child is already showing classic signs of middle-child-ism. I’m hoping that’s not really a thing, but I think it might be. There are books about birth order, after all.
She hasn’t been a middle child for long. Just weeks after her second birthday #3 arrived, and a rivalry was born. She climbed up on the bed and joked. What? No, I don’t see any baby…
Lovingly characterized as our little “imp” because of her wily ways, she doesn’t always have her polite face on. I can tell she gets tired of having a good attitude all the time; saying please and thank you. She has to ask about practically everything, either because she’s still too small, or because there are others who are first in line. Oldest child is used to being first; youngest child is already a pro at the squeaky wheel principle. She’s sandwiched in the middle, which is simply code for being shoved into last place.
It’s my turn to hold you now, Mommy.
That complex phrase came out of her mouth only a few days after little sister was born. Watchful; catching me the instant I had set the baby down for a nap in the bassinet. I couldn’t. Midwife said she was too heavy. The tears didn’t stop that day. The fog of postpartum guilt was intense.
She’s independent, and keeps it inside. When she takes a fall or stubs her toe, she just shrugs it off. No, DON’T see my owie! I’m FINE! It’s getting better!
I’m afraid she’s not getting the attention she needs, much less deserves.
For instance, there’s the potty. She’s transitioned really well, and even wears underpants to bed now. But sometimes we’re too consumed with the baby to remember to help her up to use the toilet in the middle of the night. Lately, she’s been waking up dry, even when we forget.
I’m so thankful. But I worry she’s having to grow up faster than she would have without a little sister to push her into this cramped, middle-child position.
Recently, she had a birthday. (Three!) At the same time, I finished a book. Called, How to Really Love Your Child, by Dr. Ross Campbell, it spoke to me and my husband; to the way we hope to parent, and to our current project, which is to love on the middle child better. The author explains that loving parents often unknowingly stop short of expressing love effectively. Children need to know they are loved. He’s very clear about the “how to” which is helpful.
In light of what we’d learned, her dad and I sat down to discuss what to do for her on her special day. She had asked for several things, and we wanted to understand what she was communicating to us. Something about Ariel. And a parade. She named friends her age and stature. No big kids. No babies. We realized she wanted the limelight for a little while. She wanted to feel special.
We, of course, wanted her to feel that way, too.
I made a banner with her name on it, declaring this special occasion as all her’s. (I plan to make a banner for each one of my children, to hang when we are celebrating something for just them.)
We made chocolate cupcakes because that’s her favorite.
We played with kids her size.
We wrapped a box of cereal that would be all hers (I’ll have to write about why that’s such an effective – and affordable – present for our kids some other time).
We ate a special “breakfast for dinner” of blueberry pancakes with whipped cream, because she HATES traditional supper food these days.
And we told her a little about the bright day in February that she was born; about how special and beautiful and wonderful she is to us.
That we love her.
I really hope she knows.
I think she does.
But when the feistiness rises up in her again, I plan to cuddle her and look her in the eyes and listen to what she has to say, so she feels like she’s the only one that matters right then at that moment in time. If only for a little while.
Then hopefully, if she had any doubts, she’ll believe it’s true again.