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You say middle. I say center.

When my middle son was born, he wasn’t yet my middle son, he was the baby. Yet even then, some of his strong characteristics seemed to foreshadow another baby in our future. Like tantrums. Serious tantrums that would leave us with our heads cocked like a retriever or wondering if he needed medical attention. And social acuity. He would chat up the postman, a dog walker, a teacher. He was always finding a lap to sit on that wasn’t necessarily mine. He was the boy I worried would happily get in the car for free candy. He didn’t even need the candy, just a ready ear for his chatty little mouth.  And negotiation skills? Dang if that kid couldn’t sell a fur coat to a cat.

He had middle written all over him.

Two and a half years later, he officially was a middle child, and not just a middle child, a middle boy between two boys. Double whammy. I focused all my attention on giving him attention. I would ignore the baby in front of him and say things like, “He can wait. What do you need?”I carved out time especially for him. “Just you and me.” Wink wink. “Let’s go get donuts.” I allied myself with him. “We’re the only ones in the family with green eyes. We see better in the dark. We’re like super heroes.”

I thought that if I was careful of his feelings and was extra attentive, that we would sidestep the middle child syndrome altogether.

But he wouldn’t let me do it.

When I ignored the baby, he’d remind me that I should check on him. When I offered time alone, often he’d turn me down or enlist one of his brothers to come along. When I allied myself with him, he’d call me out. “That’s not true mommy.”

I wanted to protect him but the more I focused on him, the more he fought it off. It was like he already had a shield of armor around his heart which pretty much broke mine. I thought I had sealed his fate and he was punishing me.

But really he was unconsciously fighting against this notion that there was something wrong with him or at least his lot in life. Always the defender of justice, he wanted what the other boys got, no more, no less.

I had made a mistake. I was so worried, I was over doing it. He fit in just fine with his own unique gifts; his own strengths and weaknesses.

There is nothing wrong with being a middle child. It’s the center of things. And that’s usually where he is in most situations, right in the center. If his older brother is having an argument, he’ll interject himself into it. If his younger brother is vying for another snack, he’ll point out why I should give him one. If there’s a playdate somewhere, he needs to be on it.

He’s the only one of my children to really put himself out there and take chances. He’s the bold one; the one who will try things (Well, except food, but that’s a whole different topic.), the one who speaks his mind; who isn’t afraid of mistakes. He’s super stubborn, independent, responsible, a skillful manipulator, sensitive and full of fire.

No matter the labels, my kid knows who he is.

He is my baby.

And he’s right where he belongs.

Beginning, middle and end of story.

About Ice Scream Mama

Mama to 3 boys, wife to Mr. Baseball and daughter of a sad man. I have a double scoop every day.

45 responses »

  1. what a sweet little love note about your baby.

  2. This almost made me cry. Believe it or not, I was thinking about writing a very similar piece just the other day. I don’t have a middle yet, bug u want another baby. But like you, I’m terrified to put out this beautiful, unique flame that is my second child. He sounds just like your son. He’s special. I’m so scared of messing that up. It would break my heart if he ever felt like he was anything less. But it sounds like your son is doing great and so are you. That gives me hope. Thank you for sharing.

  3. And what a fantastic middle child he is:) Great essay!

  4. You know I love me some birth order discussion. I love your take on this. As always, your boys are lucky to have you as their mama!

  5. As the youngest of 5 (girl-boy-girl-boy-girl), I commend you. Seriously. My eldest sister was Mom’s favorite; I was Dad’s. The boys were each someone’s favorite. Only Judy never was. But you know what? She turned out to be the most amazing of us all — an advocate for the homeless and downtrodden. An amazing woman.

    So don’t worry so much! Your middle son? He sounds like he has already figured out life and will be a force to be reckoned with.

  6. Pingback: Feature Friday: Ice Scream Mama | Stuphblog

  7. This was such a sweet post! Even though I have 5 brothers, I was technically the “middle” child because three of my brothers were a good 10 years older. I had a baby brother and a brother a few years older than me so I understand that feeling. You are a good mom and I’m certain your son knows it.

  8. As a teacher to many middle children over the years, I have to say you sure have a winner there! One of my all time favorites and for 2 years I had the pleasure of listening to him talk my ear off ( and at that time I only understood 1/3 of what he was saying) and have him in my lap like a sweet little puppy! Give your self and hubby a pat on the back as you’ve done a fantastic job raising a terrific middle child especially one sandwiched in between 2 very big personalities! Give him a hug from me!

  9. What a cutie. Twindaddy ordered me to mosey on over to your site — and I’m so pleased I did.

  10. Natalie DeYoung

    I like that perspective, of being in the center of things as a middle child. I, as an eldest child, was always the first, which had pluses and minuses…

  11. This was absolutely lovely to read. I think sometimes we oversimplify things with all that birth order stuff. There are so many other factors in play.

  12. This is such a great essay about your son. Sharpen your negotiating skills. If he is good at negotiating now, just wait until he is a teenager. My first born was a major negotiator. We made it through it. Happy Ninth Birthday to your son 🙂

  13. Your middle baby sounds like a charm. I’m thinking future Class President.

  14. The way you describe your center child (*smile*) sounds just like our youngest, only I can guarantee there’s no little brother or sister on the way for him!

  15. Oh, you really got me with this one!! What a gorgeous piece. We moms are always trying to protect our babies yet our babies really do know what is best!! Congratulations on having a new 9 year old, my youngest turns 9 in a few days!! Why does it go so fast?!!

  16. Awww, happy birthday to your second baby!! I was just thinking the other day how my youngest has a lot of middle qualities as well. It’s bizarre. Maybe they’re just born that way!

  17. I too had the blessing of a middle child, who grew up to be blessing still

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  19. This almost made me cry! The way you described your son reminded me of my son (soon to be big brother) I’m expecting my second child (it’s a girl) I’m just scared he might feel left out after his sister is born, and I’m afraid of loosing that special bond we both share. It might just be me! I’m pretty sure I have nothing to worry about, after all I’m pregnant and my hormone levels aren’t quite the usual. Reading this made me feel better!

    • i remember right before my second (center 😉 )was born also. i was completely emotionally overwhelmed with protective love for my first. i was afraid of what it would do to him and then i was guilty for my unborn child.. it’s just an emotional hormonal crazy time. believe me, there’s more than enough room for both. everyone adjusts, it’s all fine. as mommies we are so oversensitive to our babies needs. my first and i have such a strong bond, i could cry right now.. and i’m not pregnant! haha.

  20. middleageddiva

    Lovely…middle children do get short shrift. Except if they’re the sole sons of Italian mothers. Then? They’re deified. Just sayin’. I’m a first kid.


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