- Family and Parenting
Those crazy middle kids
My middle child is easy to overlook. She's a pleaser, so whatever you need, she is going to make sure you have it, even if it means she ignores what she wants. I can't count the times I've asked her to try something new and been told, "I like it" when I know she, in fact, does not like it. Her words may indicate what I've asked her to try is great, but her face tells a very different story. She isn't trying to lie. She's trying to make me happy. In her world, it's more important for other people to be happy than for her to get what she wants.
But that's my sweet little middle child. She wants you to feel good about yourself and to feel you've succeeded at whatever it is you attempted. Even if you fail miserably, she'll find something positive to tell you.
"I don't like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but I'm so glad you made it for me."
"That shirt isn't pretty like I like, but your face is, and I'm so happy you're my pretty Mama."
"I really don't like this show, but if you want to watch it, we can. Whatever makes your heart smile and sing a lovely song."
Yeah, she's that sweet.
We've often said she was born in the wrong time. She would be better suited to be sitting on the side of a Haight-Ashbury road some time in 1967ish wearing a flowy dress and preaching peace and love or twirling through the muddy fields of Woodstock passing out hugs, smiles and special brownies (which she would not need because she is already chilled out and happy without herbal intervention).
Raising a middle child
Raising a middle child, especially one as sweet-hearted and tender-voiced as ours, is not without challenges. Her older sister is a super-achiever who prides herself on being right and knowing better about pretty much everything than...well...pretty much everyone. Her younger sister is a hardheaded ball of take-no-prisoners energy, and she commands our attention more often than the other two sisters combined.
So our adorable little middle girl gets caught in the shuffle. It's a story as old as families, I suppose. The middle child is ignored at the expense of the older and young siblings. It's not that way in our home, though. At least we try for it not to be.
When our middle daughter came along, she was a breath of fresh air. Our oldest had been tormented by night terrors since before she was a year old, and we were tired. Our laidback middle child slept well, ate well and fit into our family as if she had always been there. She didn't cry nearly as much as her older sister. When she had an ear infection, we only found out about it when we took her to the doctor for something else and were told it was infected (that's not necessarily a good thing, of course - just an example of how take-it-as-it-comes this child is). She traveled well, listened when we told her to do things and thought her older sister pretty much hung the moon.
Looking back now, I'm pretty sure our middle child was God's way of saying, "Hey, Mom and Dad. I know you had some rough times with Child #1, so I'm giving you easy-breezy Child #2 because I know you need a break before this hardheaded little tornado known as Child #3 comes along."
Our little empath
As my middle girl has gotten older, she has more often been the one we have to remind to pay attention and focus. She's like a little goldfish swimming around her world's bowl. She sees all her bowl has to offer, swims one time around and re-experiences it as she swims by once again because she has forgotten what she saw the first time.
But don't underestimate her - she pays attention more often than we realize and can remind you of things you never knew you forgot. She is highly in tune with emotions and beauty. When she sees sadness, she internalizes it as if it happened to her. When she sees happiness, her whole demeanor overflows with joy. When she sees or hears something that strikes her as extraordinary or beautiful, she can become overwhelmed with the processing of what she has seen that she is brought to tears.
My husband and I have decided our middle child is as close to an Empath as we have ever seen. She's immediately affected by others' moods and absorbs their energy. She is occasionally a recluse who can be mistakenly labeled as unresponsive when you try to get her attention. What she's really doing is blocking out the rest of the world, which I sometimes think she does to give herself a break.
She can be overshadowed by her older sister's determination to succeed, but don't count her out. She is a quiet achiever who catches onto things quickly. She chokes back tears when watching heartstring-tugging commercials, looking at pictures of babies or listening to sad songs. Her imagination knows no boundaries, and she surrounds herself with alternate universes and friends we can't see - Bubble World, Water World, her pet cheetah Cheetie and more.
She breaks into dance without warning in public places. She loves animals and flowers and rainbows. People are drawn to her as if her soul is calling to theirs, and they absolutely must talk to her. Our empathic little middle girl is a comedian who can talk clear-as-day without opening her mouth and speaks just as clearly with her big blue eyes.
She just knows stuff. How she does it, we don't know, but she can explain things to you that you had no idea she even knew about. When I cook, she likes to watch and help and soaks it all in as if it's her personal responsibility to pass down all family recipes and cooking tricks to future generations.
Have I mentioned she just turned 6?
All these wonderful things make her uniquely her, but they can also make it more difficult to give her the singular attention she needs in the sometimes choppy waters of Sibling Sea. The older child gets to do things first, and the younger child is still everyone's baby. The older child is more vocal about things she wants, and the younger child just takes what she wants when she wants it.
We don't always do a good job of singling her out, and sometimes when we do, I feel like the others are getting left out. As much as we would like to and as much as we try to, we can't always be everything to every child. We know that, of course, but we're trying. That has to count for something, right? Surely our little Empath can feel how much Mama and Daddy love her and want her to have her own spotlight!
We do what we can.
We can only hope our adorable little mess known as the middle child feels good about the person she's becoming and knows that Mama and Daddy love her beyond all words, time and space. We're trying to raise her to feel individually valued and loved, but she so easily chooses her way into the background that it can be difficult to harvest any spotlighted moments out of the shadows in which she dwells.
Of course, just when I feel like I'm SuperFail Mom when it comes to her, she voluntarily steps into the spotlight riding high on Cheetie and singing a beautiful song without ever opening her mouth. We're entertained, and we praise her for creativity and lovingness. She basks in our adoration's glow and retreats right back to Bubble World or wherever her head is at that moment. We'll see her again when she's ready. It'll probably involve some form of laughter, loving tenderness, heart-clasping awe or joke she made up, and we'll have to put the other two on hold long enough to dedicate the attention she deserves.
She's worth it, though, just as her two sisters are. She reminds us to laugh when we're stressed. She shows us how to love even when we don't feel particularly lovable. Our six-year-old is one of those crazy Middle Littles with a big personality and comedic wit balanced by shyness and a deep-rooted love of emotions.
She is special, and we love her. She may wish her sisters would give up a little spotlight space sometimes, but I'm confident she will command the attention she needs if/when she decides it's time. Until then, we'll just keep on loving our sweet little middle girl and hope she knows how awesome she is and how much Mama and Daddy love her.
Heaven knows she makes sure we know how much she loves us. Returning the favor is the least we can do.