Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Difference Between Being “A” Middle Child and “The” Middle Child

The Golden Rule of birth order:
If you’re not the first or the last,
you’re in the middle!
     Not every Middle Child necessarily knows they’re a Middle Child. I’ve written about this before, urging Sarah Jessica Parker to embrace her Middle Child status, but I’m pretty sure the message isn’t getting through. Case in point: I was speaking to a radio host who told me there were no Middle Children in his family. I asked how many siblings he had and was told he was the second of four. When I informed him that meant there are actually two Middle Children in his family and that he was one of them, it was like I turned his world upside down! So if MidKids themselves aren’t even aware of their status, why would I think non-Middles would know any better?
     If my sister-in-law is any indication, they do not. The oldest of four girls, she didn’t realize her very own sister (my wife) was one of two Middle Children. “There can only be one Middle Child per family,” she informed me. And then there’s the former co-worker and father of five (and Middle Child himself) who was telling me a story about his own Middle Child. When I told him he actually had three, he said, “I never thought of it that way.” Aaargh. It’s an epidemic, I tell you!! But changing someone’s understanding of what it takes to be a Middle Child is no easy task.
     If I asked you, “Who was the Middle Child on The Brady Bunch?”  your answer would likely be Jan. Of course, you’d be right. And wrong. Sure, she’s “a” Middle Child, but not “the” Middle Child. She’s the Middle Brady sister and probably the world’s most iconic MidKid, but what about Peter, the Middle Brady boy? He’s no less a Middle Child, and it doesn’t end there. There were six siblings in the blended Brady brood, so after Carol and Mike got hitched, Marcia and Bobby became Middles along with Peter and Jan. In fact, Greg and Cindy were the only ones who weren't ever Middle Children.
     And what about “Malcolm in the Middle?” Yes, he was “a” Middle Child, but far from being “the” Middle Child. Malcolm was actually one of three brothers in the middle. It was just him and Reese until the end of season four when baby Jamie came along, then Dewey became one too. I guess “Malcolm, Reese, & Dewey in the Middle” wasn’t as catchy a title. So Malcolm got top billing, and Reese and Dewey were relegated to the trash heap of TV Middle Children. Talk about Middle Child Syndrome.
     When you’re “the” Middle Child, you’re on your own. It’s two against one. You’re outnumbered, on an island unto yourself. I have long argued it is the truest form of Middle Child, and also the worst. On the other hand, when you’re “a” Middle Child, at least you have company. That’s probably a good thing, because misery does love company. With four siblings, it’s a level playing field. Two on two. A house divided. And when there are five or more siblings (gasp), the Middles are the majority. Multiple siblings get to be “a” Middle Child, but no one sibling is “the” Middle Child -- except when there’s an odd number of siblings. Then one lucky sib gets to be the Middle Middle Child -- the birth order equivalent of a double whammy.
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     I created a Middle Child hierarchical classification diagram in a previous post, but so many other factors impact how much of a Middle Child you end up being. I’m sure the number of Middle Children in your family has something to do with it. I would think the more Middle Children there are in a family, the less likely you might be to feel like a Middle Child. But that’s just scratching the surface. For instance, there has to be a difference between someone who becomes a Middle Child when they are eight years old versus someone who is two years old. Sure, you got all those extra years of being the beloved baby, but maybe that actually makes it worse when all that adoration is stripped away from you? Maybe it’s better to have the attention band-aid ripped off before you have the chance to get used to all the love.
     And what about blended families? Two birth orders get melded into one, and like the Brady’s, everything changes. I even spoke with someone who was the first born daughter then became a Middle Child when her parents adopted an even older daughter.
     Of course, if you don’t even know you’re a Middle Child, none of this will even matter, which brings us right back to square A. So to determine if you’re “the” Middle Child (or even “a” Middle Child), take this simple test:

1. Are you the oldest sibling in your family? If you answered YES, congratulations. You dodged a birth order bullet. You are DEFINITELY not a Middle Child. Go bask in parental praise and plaudits.

If you answered NO, proceed to question 2.

2. Are you the youngest sibling in your family? If you answered YES, you hit the jackpot. You’re the beloved baby! Have fun doing all the things your older siblings weren’t allowed to do.

If you answered NO, too bad. You’re a sandwiched sibling -- like it or not.

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Middle Children need to be heard!