Thursday, September 13, 2007

Children in the Middle

There are many of us...the middle children in a family. The scapegoats, the peacemakers, the people who walk the fence, trying to appease those who were born first or last...I recognize the middle child, when I meet him.

Because his character and personality can be very much like mine.

As I researched the 'Net about middle children, I found tears running down my cheeks...and it took me aback! What was this all about?

Middle children need to be validated; I was reading articles that recognized this. Articles that mentioned the urgency Middles have to own an object that is new, just for them. Articles from experts that understood our tendency to get left out of things, where nobody seemed to hear our voice. Articles that showed me from where the seeds of creativity, independence and diplomatic behaviour that characterized my personality came.

Along with the reading, came a voice that began as a whisper and grew louder...a voice deep from the Root. A child's voice...saying look at this, here!

Okay...so now I know. There are still childish hurts that have not been dealt with. I can do something about this little untended childhood whisper.

Because, as my therapist advised me many times, I am no longer a child. I have many tools and knowledge I did not have way back then.

And I can use what the experts say about the Middles. It can become the cornerstone of the building I'm trying to construct. I'll take what makes sense to me and leave the rest. There are other events that shaped my life...they require tending, as well.

I was born third in a total of four girls. I felt as if I was just a very small part of the whole parcel. My tiny voice was rarely heard, and when I raised it, when something was important to my young world, astonishment and anger greeted my outbursts. Consequently, there were not many of them.

I distanced myself very early on in life; I sought solitude amongst the crowd. I couldn't bear the limelight, a characteristic that remains true to this day. If attention was given to me, I couldn't enunciate a word. But on my solitary, dreaming walks, I honed my imagination. I told stories to the World at large...the seemingly empty spaces around me.

This is where I learned to become a storyteller...and later, a writer.

I stayed home as little as possible, in my teen years. I'm not sure anyone noticed I was gone. I expected nothing more; I went my own way, making friends and learning independence. I left home as soon as I could, searching adventure, learning to make decisions, enjoying the ability to do what I wanted.

This is common to the Middles; quite often in adolescence, friendships become far more important than family. Middles often tell themselves...If I'm not wanted or noticed here, there are other places where I am.

And in the midst of a group of friends, I became a negotiator, I cooperated well with others. I developed empathy for those less fortunate than I. I learned to see various points of view, always striving for that balance on the fence.

I nursed feelings of injustice, against my family, becoming rebellious in the process. The experts say this independent thinking leads to creativity and the ability to take risks. My rebellion, until it was reined in for what it was, led me to disastrous consequences for awhile.

Middles can be difficult for the expert to evaluate. There are so many variables...Middles can take on characteristics from the sibling closest to them in age or there might be a number of years between siblings, resulting in a mixture of youngest and eldest features.

Middles aren't as cut and dried as first and last born children.

As difficult as I remember family life to be in my youth, it shaped me into who I am today. I learned all those distinguishing parts of me as a result, partly, of being a Middle.

I learned how to adapt and go with the flow. I am most grateful for this ability...it is the one distinguishing part of my personality that came from being a Middle. In my family, attention was concentrated on the eldest and the youngest. I wondered back then...am I here? Do you want my opinion?...and nobody did.

Alright, then. I went with the flow and learned to listen...and eventually, from there, I learned how to watch body language and decipher it well.

I am thankful for the lessons that being a Middle gave me. As difficult as I perceived it to be, at the time, my birth order has shaped a good part of my life's path.

I am finally, finally happy to be where I am...exactly in the Middle.

14 comments:

  1. My husband and I are both middle children, perhaps this is why we get each other. Great post.

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  2. Good post!

    I'm a middle child, but I also grew up in an unusual family structure, so I guess I don't have any memories associated with being a middle child in particular, except having to wear hand-me-downs as the youngest of three girls. I hated that! But we just didn't have the money for clothes. When I went to a new school for sixth grade, and I was terribly shy and felt alienated, my mom went out of her way to buy me some really cool new outfits. I've always been especially grateful for that.

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  3. Very interesting and something that had never occurred to me before. But then I was an only child, which had its advantages and disadvantages. But on reflection there are more disadvantages to being an only child.

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  4. From an only child's perspective, this is foreign. I always longed for a sibling. Isn't it strange? You felt unseen and I wanted more to divert my parents' attention. I agree with you though that birth order does impact us. My younger son used to asked, "Who do you like better?" The older son thinks the younger is babied too much. Is anyone ever really happy?

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  5. Marsha,

    My partner and I are also Middles; as a result, we understand each other well, just as you and your partner do. I was married to an only child; as a Middle it was disastrous for me.

    Barbara,

    Those memories when I was treated specially by my mother are ones I will never forget. There were few of them; they never became common place remembrances, as a result.

    Davem,

    You're one of those Super first borns. The one, the only...and the total focus of your parents eyes...that is difficult. I have heard this over and over again.

    Sheila,

    I don't know if anybody is ever happy with where they are in the order of the family. All I know is that it shaped my personality a lot. Was I happy as a Middle? No. Was my eldest child happy, or my second child, with their order? Probably not.

    But it does explain a few things about myself, it takes me a little deeper as I try and figure out who I am.

    I guess the grass is always greener on the other side, until I'm there!

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  6. Great post Marion. I'm one of two with just the one brother. However one of my closest friends is a middle child and has experienced very similar feelings to your own. Like yourself she has fought her childhood insecurities as she felt "pushed out" by the eldest and youngest children in her family. I think it's all part of the process of growing up. In a way it makes you stronger and more determined to prove yourself as an adult. You may have felt that nobody heard you as a child but you are an adult now Marion. You have moved on and you have a voice now, through your blog and lots of loyal readers who love to hear you. You've more than proved yourself as a talented and creative lady in your own right.

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  7. Interesting post Marion. Being an only child I can never imagine what it would be like to be in a big family whether oldest, youngest or in the middle.

    I do know I was happy to be on my own as I always took part of family decisions. The negative side was the pressure to be good at everything as my parents thought I was perfect.

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  8. This is a great post, one I understand completely. Biologically I was the youngest of three, yet because of family dynamics I found myself taking on the role of the "middle child" exactly as you describe here. My two older sisters have literally hated each other since I can remember, however they both always got along with me - a situation that forced me to play the part of mediator. When my mother discovered that I was good at it, it became an expected role - one of the reasons I avoid family gatherings to this day.

    Food for thought: Is the middle child syndrome a product of biology, some sort of genetic predisposition determined by birth order? Or, is it a product of the environment? It seems to be the age old question of "nature vs nurture."

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  9. Naomi,

    Sometimes, memories from the past can tweak a sore spot, ones I didn't realize I had. You're right...I have adult tools and abilities I didn't back then. Looking at all sides of the equation from an adult point of view makes up the whole, and gives me further understanding.

    And thank you for the wonderful compliment!

    Jackie,

    I'd guess, as Sheila says, nobody is ever completely happy with the order of things, but it is what it is.

    Perfection is a difficult model to follow. I figure the only time I was ever completely perfect were the seconds that occurred just after I was born, lol!

    Acceptance of who I am and how I got here...that's important to me. What is perfection, anyway?

    But I envy the fact you had parents who believed you were perfect...perhaps whatever you did would have been great!

    Joe,

    Hmmm...sounds a great deal like my family.I remember calling my Mom when I was around 28, telling her I would no longer attend family functions. I couldn't take the backstabbing and whispered secrets that circulated...one sister always pitted against another. I removed myself, as well.

    And I am pondering your question...one minute going one way and then the next, the other. At this point, I'll give a Middle answer and say it's both. But then, I think of situations where a comfortably placed Middle might suddenly be placed in a first-born's order. How could a Middle suddenly live up to expectations of a First Born?...I couldn't at any rate. So, as you see, I have more thinking to do!

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  10. Marion, I have to agree with you. I am a very firm believer in existentialism - man is a sum of all his parts. Change one iota of genetic makeup, or alter one tiny life experience and you will have a totally different person.

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  11. I really need to read your blog more frequently. It is funny you describe my feelings exactly. I too have always felt alone and of no importance in the order of things as it pertains to our family. For a little bit I was the youngest and that seemed to be not too bad but then I had a wonderful grandmother who treated both of us as equally important. Then you came along and there I was in the middle and shortly after left the mediating grandmother behind leaving me with no one to talk to who understood.

    So I guess I always thought of you as the youngest not realizing that you must have felt exactly like I did when number 4 arrived.

    You are right however in that being in the middle makes you more introspective and compassionate towards others. That is something that maybe the oldest and the youngest never had an opportunity to learn so maybe I should be greatful for being in the middle.

    Thanks for the insight.

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  12. I am the baby in my family. I really do believe that birth order makes a difference.

    Thanks for dropping by.

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  13. Sadly I wasn't that perfect so became a rebel at 16, didn't go to university as planned and became a drop out :(

    On the up side I did sort my self out in my 40's and got to the top in my career even without a degree. Shame it took 20 years.

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  14. R,

    Thanks for dropping in! With the kind of upheaval in family life we experienced, it really is no wonder the middle kids got lost!

    Birth order is an interesting subject...it gives a different viewpoint on things.

    Skittles,

    How nice to see you...thank you for dropping by!

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