All through my childhood I felt a bit hard done by as the middle child. I didn’t get the privileges of being the oldest, nor was I babied like the youngest.
I fought battles for my sister – creating a petition when we wanted our ears pierced, for example – and then had to wait another two years to have my chance. She was marched off to the ear-piercing place and I hated her for those shiny gold nuggets and red ear lobes when she arrived home later that afternoon. I envied her when she washed her ears with sterilising fluid and winced with pain. I wanted to experience that too and felt the world was against me.
It was only fair that I should wait until I was the same age, my parents said. I disagreed.
On long drives across Europe, I had to sit in the middle seat of the car. The one without a door to lean on. The one with a bump under your bum and an uncomfortable strap across your middle. My head lolled from side to side when I tried to sleep and I woke up with neck ache, whilst the other two slept soundly against their doors.
My sister was too tall, they said. My brother was too small. I disagreed.
I helped my brother to write his name in chalk on my blackboard, teaching him the same way I had learnt at school – and when he decided to scrawl it up the side of the house in gigantic letters across the bricks, I somehow took the blame.
You encouraged him, they said. Or at least handed him the chalk, they added. I disagreed.
Can you see I’m still holding a grudge being the middle child?!
I always knew that I wanted three children – so not long after Wilfred was born, it suddenly occurred to me that (god willing) he would become the middle child one day. He’d wear the badge and maybe he’d feel the same injustice. In fact, maybe he’ll be writing a blog post just like this in 30 years time – or at least bringing it up every Christmas between glugs of port, while everyone laughed at his misfortune.
He’s always been the more “challenging” child – and I’ve found myself pointing out to friends that he is the classic middle child (takes one to know one). They pointed out that there are only two children, which threw me for a moment – but now that his baby sister is gearing up for her appearance in the world, he has the chance to fulfill my prophecy.
So Wilfred, as you veer into territory I know so well, remember this… Being the middle child gives you an advantage in life too – you become a negotiator, you learn to fight battles, you are definitely a people person (seeing as they are everywhere) and you will find a streak of independence that will serve you well in later life.
But most of all, understand that in my eyes, it will not change anything. You will still get cuddles, you will be smothered in kisses, and you will still get just as much attention as you need.
In my case, it turned out that I wasn’t going to be the middle child forever, losing my brother 12 years ago and suddenly becoming the youngest. But in my heart, of course, I will always be the middle child – and I am adamant that my birth order shaped me into the person I am today.
Wilfred, I am sure that will be the same for you too – but you can count on one thing.
I will stick up for you between glugs of port at the dinner table every year.
It’s our birth right to moan, after all.