“Lost in the middle.”
“The forgotten one.”
These are just a few of the terms I heard directed at my soon-to-be middle child shortly after we announced we were expecting our third.
In the ranking system of families, the middle is thought to be the worst place to land — never quite old enough to perform at the oldest sibling’s level and no longer young enough to demand the attention the baby can. The middle child will never be the first to ride a bike or go to kindergarten, nor will they be the last child over-celebrated for reaching milestones that prove final for their parents. Never the first, and ironically, never the last.
I’ve known since my second child’s personality started to blossom that she was made to be a middle child. Loud, boisterous, stubborn, funny, sarcastic (in a way most adults struggle to pull off), and a natural-born leader, she had everything it took to hold her own in the middle spot. She wouldn’t be ignored simply because she wouldn’t allow it. And with a smile that could light up a room and an infectious laugh to match, I was confident she wouldn’t just survive in the middle — she would thrive there.
Watching her grow into her big sister’s best friend and transition to big sister herself, I realized that maybe the sweetest place you can land in a family is in the middle. She is the bridge that connects my 6-year-old and my 18-month-old. There’s a lot to be said for the middle. She’s old enough to sit and play Barbies with her older sister, yet young enough to send her baby brother into fits of giggles. As an added bonus, she doesn’t try to “mother” her little brother the way my oldest tends to, and she’s far more interested in being his friend.
My daughter is the balance in my heart between my baby and my big girl. She’s old enough to get herself going on the swings and still young enough to snuggle on my lap. She’s young enough to still need training wheels and old enough to not need help in the bathroom. My middle child is the constant, unwavering anchor that grounds me when I look at her sister and wish time could somehow stand still and when I glance at her brother and wish this challenging stage would pass a little bit faster.
As it turns out, the people making all those jokes about middle children really have it wrong — at least as they pertain to her.
My daughter can never be “lost in the middle” because she’s too busy being a guide to her little brother. She won’t be “overshadowed” either, because her strong personality radiates a ray of sunshine separate of her siblings’ that’s warm enough to share. And she will never, ever be “the forgotten one”; her mark, her place in this family, is as firmly cemented as our love for her.
When I really think about it, the family story we write every single day just wouldn’t be complete without the middle.