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In the Middle

 Recently, a friend said that she has an older sister and younger brother and as a middle child she struggled to find her place in her family.  I thought of one of my Grands.  Annabel is one of five and she’s smack dab in the middle:  boy, girl, girl, girl, boy.  My friend shook her head and said, “And I thought I had it tough!”           

Those who study family dynamics acknowledge that birth order can affect a person’s personality and I saw some of the stereotypical traits while teaching elementary age students.  First-borns tended to be perfectionists and had three sharpened pencils; the youngest felt entitled and searched for a pencil.  Middle-born children were usually flexible, sociable, peacemakers, creative, and liked to try something new or different, even colored pencils.

             Middle Child Day is August 12, but I can’t wait until August to celebrate middles because Annabel is celebrating her birthday this week.  She showed her middleness when she and I talked about her birthday gift. I suggested that Husband and I give her an experience – not a wrapped-in-a-box gift – and offered two things I knew she liked to do.  She didn’t smile or show a positive response. “Tell me why those aren’t good ideas,” I said.

            “Because I’ve already done both of those,” my Grand said.  So, we have talked about a day at a museum and lunch at a restaurant where she’s never eaten.  But we might, in her words, “do something we haven’t thought of yet.”   

            If you have a middle in your life – friend or family member – you know that they made life a bit more fun.  Maybe you’ve accompanied a group of children on a field trip. While most walk calmly on the sidewalk, the middles likely dance, hop and twirl.  An older middle is often the life of the party, the one who tells jokes and pries the wallflowers from the wall.

            Middles are peacemakers and pleasers.  When a group can’t agree on a restaurant, a middle suggests somewhere that everyone will like.  Middles survey the situation and offer ideas for a decision that all can accept. 

            Middles’ need for independence and to fit in can be strengths, but are sometimes seen as problems. Young middles might misbehave and demand their way to get their parents’ attention.  Yet, as they get older, they are sociable and have a need for friends, often labeled as the family’s ‘Social Butterfly.’ 

            Being a middle child can be tough. Middles are younger siblings, but also older ones, and they can be overshadowed by their siblings.  Dr. Kevin Leman wrote in his book, The Birth Order Book, that middle children are tenacious adults because they learn that life isn’t fair so they are more adaptable and value compromise.

            Obviously, birth order is only one possible factor that determines a person’s personality, but most adult middle children say being stuck in the middle wasn’t easy.  And that’s all the more reason to celebrate my Grand’s birthday.

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