A Letter of Apology To My Middle Child

69 Comments

middle-child

Dear Curly Mop,

I can recall the exact moment that your fate was sealed. You weren’t even born yet. It was the day of my 19 week scan and your father and I were waiting for our turn. I desperately needed you to be a girl. I suspect he hoped you would be a boy. I remember saying to your daddy I felt sad that this would be the last time we ever saw one of our babies on the ultrasound monitor. He simply said ‘why is this the last time?’

In that exact moment the prospect of a third child became reality, and you became a middle child.

Two and a half years later, when you were barely two and just beginning to find yourself, you not only became a middle child, but a middle sister. Never the biggest, never the smallest, but always being lumped with one of your sisters as one of either ‘the two big girls’ or ‘the two babies’.

I knew the fraught position you were in, yet was powerless to change it. You were always being told to wait while I fed the baby. Then you were told to hurry up so we could get your oldest sister to preschool on time. You were pushed into bed so I could have a moment’s peace, then woken up again so we could do the afternoon school run.

Now at the age of three you have shown yourself to be independent, strong-willed, imaginative and stubborn. You are also completely immune to any sort of threat or bribe. The prospect of losing dessert or TV or a toy means nothing to you, and as such it can be difficult to control you. The only thing that you seem to want is the one thing I find hardest to give: my complete, undivided attention. Hard because I have three children and a house to run and my writing. Hard because you always want to play imaginary games, but you don’t actually tell me what we’re playing, so I always get it wrong and you tell me off.

Although you will always be surrounded by the blonde bombshells, twins separate by five years, never feel you need to be like your sisters. Never feel you need to be the eldest and never feel you need to be a baby.You are my middle, and just like a ham and salad sandwich, this family would not be complete without the middle. I need you to be yourself, and whatever you are at that point in time is fine with me. I will do my hardest to never compare you with the other girls. I will probably fail, but I promise to do my best.

I see you trying on different personas, trying to get attention: the naughty girl – baiting your older sister until she hits you in frustration, or deliberately pushing the baby over. I see you trying to be the sweet girl – coming to tell me at all hours of the day and night that you ‘wuv’ me, batting your eyelashes, puckering your mouth. I see you trying to be the baby, refusing to get out of nappies, using a baby voice, copying your baby sister.

Please don’t spend your life trying to be someone you’re not. It’s exhausting. Experience has taught me you should spend your time and energy trying to find out who you are. It is an important lesson: if people really love you, they will accept all of you, and love all of you. If someone says they love you because you are thin or smart or have curly hair, then they don’t really love you. It’s taken me many years to realize that I can be loved despite having flaws.

It’s a liberating realization to be able to relax in your own body and be yourself, and still be loved. You may feel hard done by being the middle, but I believe that in life we are never given any more than we can handle. Don’t look upon it that you are neither the eldest nor the youngest. Instead, see yourself as being both a big sister and a little sister. Your sisters cannot claim such a varied and important role; you will have the protection of your big sister and the opportunity to guide your little sister.

Some people may claim that the life of a middle is the hardest, always forgotten, overlooked in the drama of the older sibling and the intensity of the baby. But in other regards it could be the easiest; you have someone else to forge the path and fight the battles with your parents, while you have someone else to bring up the rear, and takes the burden of empty-nest concerns. That being said, I do not expect you to coast along. I see the fire within you and know that you will make your own way, despite your place in the middle, or perhaps because of it.

I’ve always said that if money was of no concern, I would ask for two things: Clean sheets and a newly made bed every night (someone else to do the washing, of course) and someone to deliver me beautiful fresh sandwiches every day with a variety of exotic fillings.

Embrace your middle-ness Curly Mop, because every day of your life, you will be surrounded by the fresh sheets of your sisters, protecting you from the world, yet you will also be the exotic filling in our family sandwich, making our life more interesting and exciting.

Perhaps I took those analogies just a little too far, but I hope you understand what I mean.

And now I am hungry.

Thank you for being my daughter Curly Mop. Whatever your place in this family, you are a perfect fit for me, and I will always love you.

Love,
Mum

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Comments

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  1. 1

    juliasv says

    Wow. I am a middle sister and wish so badly that I could have heard this from my parents. I wasn’t the pretty one, or the cute one. Never the oldest or the baby. I was the middle one. Or at my best, the “smart” one in a family that physical appearance was the be all and end all.

    Cudos and hugs to you for this letter. Your middle one will always treasure it.

    I am off to cry now.

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    • 2

      TeaLovingTeen says

      I totally agree with you, juliasv.
      I’m the middle one in my family and that’s my title, “the smart one.” Not the pretty one, not the likeable one. No, the “anti-social” weird one, who’d rather read a book than go out. Why? Because I have responsibilities at home, to my parents AND siblings. My older sister is out and about leaving my parents to wring their wrists in worry, and my younger sister cannot be asked to do anything because, “You do it better than me.”
      The middle life isn’t easy, I can admit that.

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  2. 3

    Mary says

    Oh sweetie… RUN to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of “You Can’t Make Me! (But, I Can be Persuaded)”, by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias.

    I’ll preface by saying she’s a Christian author, but… She’s very readable and approachable, with a lot of common sense, not all preachy and holier-than-thou or stuffing religion at you every other page. I am not a habitual reader of “Christian” literature for those reasons, but I found her books refreshingly different.

    Her books about raising Strong Willed Children, (which, btw, she promotes as a Good Thing!), saved my sanity with my elder, who is most assuredly a SWC.

    Best of luck, Mama, especially with celebrating your SWC’s best traits! They can be trying, but those are the kids who are going to run the world one day.
    <3

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  3. 4

    Debby Lewis says

    I have a middle one. She is my mini-me. The older one and the younger one seem to be identical molds of each other. But my middle one is strong willed and stubborn just like I was at her age, heck who am I kidding, I still am at this age! I would not trade her for anything in this world and I rest secure in the fact that she is indeed her own person and she knows who she is and while she may not be too sure what she wants to be as of yet, although the list is a mile and a half long, I know that when she finally decides she will be the best that she can be because she is the middle of this insane family!

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    • 5

      Amy says

      I could have written the same exact thing. My mini-me is 16. Her sisters are 18 and 14 and much more similar to each other. But it works pretty good now. I think it helps that because of my job that takes me around the world,and a divorce 10 years ago, the don’t always all live together. We have them in different combos. This year, they are all in the same house until the 18 year old moves out next month. But they will be in the same town at least! My middle has said she feels very middle child-ish a lot of the time. I’m the oldest, I’m can’t relate. But she’s the one I can hang with for hours.

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  4. 6

    Emily (OhBoyMom) says

    I have 3 boys and you just described my middle guy perfectly. I always tell him he has the unique distinction of being both the big and little brother, but the adjectives you used: strong-willed, stubborn, independent, imaginative — that’s ALL him. And yes, what he craves the most is attention from us — we try to give him the one on one time as much as we can, but it’s hard, not just for him, but for all 3.

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  5. 7

    Stacy says

    You describe my middle guy to a T. My oldest was 4 when he was born however my middle guy was just 23months when his baby sister joined us. I stopped nursing him when he was 18mo old and I don’t think he was entirely ready. To make matters worse his sister was born with some unique medical issues drawing attention away from him even more. He is the sweetest most loving child I ever could imagine but cross him and he is the most stubborn, demanding and will cut off his nose to spite his face when he wants what he wants! However people are drawn to him and he makes friends SO easily, everyone wants to be with him.

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  6. 8

    Allie Smith says

    This was beautiful. I have four, but my only girl is in the middle, between her twin older brothers, and the baby. I could relate to so much – but most of all, her need for my “undivided attention.” Oh boy….

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  7. 9

    Ice scream mama says

    I’ve got three boys and my middle was a middle even before he was born… strong willed, fiery, needy but strangely independent, sensitive and tough all wrapped in one. i was so focused on not middling him but it made no difference. he is who he is. and he has his own unique strengths and weaknesses that are no better or no worse than his brothers.

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  8. 11

    dontblamethekids says

    Thank you for this. I won’t have a middle, because I am sticking with two, but I am a middle myself. It was so important to me to carve out space that was just mine, that made me something other than just the middle. I found it with horseback riding…I hope your middle finds it with something less expensive! :)

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  9. 12

    Danyne says

    Well, as the middle in 3 girls, that made me tear up a bit. I normally try to avoid middle stereotypes, but that struck a chord. Most stereotypes say we’re forgotten and overlooked, but I realize fought hard to make myself seen and was successful.

    But what really got me was the sentence ” Although you will always be surrounded by the blonde bombshells, twins separate by five years, never feel you need to be like your sisters.” I’m 22 and have been struggling for so long watching my sisters be best friends without me and craving that intimate sister-ship, and I’m glad I read this to realize that I’m ok with not needing to be in their circle. Thank you for writing this.

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    • 13

      just me says

      As soon as you stop yearning to be part of the “sister-ship”, and start focusing on having fun, seeking out new experiences and people, the happier you will be. I was a middle kid and my biggest regret is not moving away from my family as soon as I could. If you feel bad around your family, grow a pair, and move on. No one HAS to struggle and feel bad. And I hope you stop choosing to.

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  10. 14

    PernRider says

    I need to show this to my middlet when she gets home from school. I know she struggles with that role, and I know that I don’t always make it as easy as I wish I could. Her older sister, as a preteen, is easier to relate to in many ways; plus, because of custody issues, she has always had slightly preferential treatment (she’s half sister, the only child of my first marriage, and lives with her father primarily, due to school). Her little sister … well, she’s the baby, and has always gloried in that role; she’s the quintessential “golden girl”, quite literally, down to the blonde ringlets (now gone, after an ill-conceived and still unexplained hairdressing session in July of 2012). But my middlet … oh, she lives up to her name, pure fire, but with all the stubbornness of those born under the Bull’s sign!

    And on the one hand, she’s so fiercely independent that I have to beg her to still hold my hand when we walk, because on those moments we do get solo time (mostly as we rush for a bus so that she can get to her Taekwondo lessons, lessons I insisted that *she* get, just for her very middle-ness), I crave the feeling of her little hand in mine, and knowing that my baby is still my baby, even as I see her shooting up, see her changing into a young woman before my very eyes. And on the other, she sometimes cries at night, because she envisions the future day when she’s finally grown enough to strike out on her own, and she won’t need me anymore, and it terrifies her, the thought of not having me just in the other room for her the minute she needs me.

    She’s so dedicated to her sisters that I frequently say that if you offer her a candy or a cookie, she’ll ask for another … just so that she can make sure her sisters also get them. And if she only has one, more often than not, she’ll sacrifice it to her little sister, because she’d rather not see her go without. And I see the little one take advantage of that at times, and then expect it so much that she cries and complains on the rare occasion that “Nene’s not sharing!” I see the bookends gang up on her at times, and she bears it, never fighting back with her hands, even when I *know* her little sister has been getting physical … because she’s her little sister, so she has a duty to protect *her*, in her mind, even when reminded she has a right to defend herself.

    I can’t imagine a more perfect her, no matter how frustrating she can be, with dragging out her homework or never cleaning her room, or the neverending battles over brushing her oh-so-long hair (because the length is all that really matters to her, because she’s just not as into her own looks as, say, her little sister). I can’t tell her enough how much I love her, how smart, how funny, how beautiful she is, and in all the ways that matter, not just her face.

    This … reading this … it says so much of what I think she will need to hear, carving that place as the middlet in a family of girls.

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    • 15

      just me says

      “middlet”?? Are you kidding me? Do you call your other children your “oldlet” and your “younglet”? With any luck this “middlet” will grow up and move away from you as soon as she can. Stereotype, anyone?

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      • 16

        PernRider says

        No. I call the others the oldest and the youngest, like everyone else does. I don’t usually refer to them as “my oldest child” or “my youngest daughter”, though, so it seems odd to me (and to my children) to call the middle one “my middle one”. Calling her “my middlet” makes sense to us, as a family, and it gives her a sense of place in terms of vocabulary, which the others already have by nature of our language.

        I fail to see how that’s stereotyping, by the way. YOU seem to be sterotyping ME, in fact, by saying that by making a word to describe her place in our family, I’m DISplacing her, or de-emphasizing her, or something. I’m not even sure of your point, frankly.

        I’m sorry that you were hurt when your children moved away and left you. I can only assume that your anger at my use of a word to describe my daughter that my daughter loves stems from something along those lines, coupled as it is with your hope that she grows up and leaves me as soon as possible. Did your children run very far when they left? Is that it?

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          • 18

            PernRider says

            I think your point is that you’re a bitter middle child who didn’t get enough attention, and now you want to make other parents feel bad because yours weren’t as good as you wanted. Based on all of the comments you have so far posted on this blog.

            I honestly have no idea which paragraph you’re referring to, by the way, because I used the term “middlet” at least three times, and in different paragraphs.

            I think it’s funny that you take such issue with a term that *I* use to define MY child’s place in our family. A term that SHE loves, for that very reason. That you should show such anger toward something that a complete stranger uses for a child you don’t even know.

            You’re actually a pretty horrible person, based on your consistent posts. That’s your point, I think.

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          • 20

            PernRider says

            No, it isn’t. “Middlet” refers to a middle child. I know, because it’s MY word.

            Here’s another word for YOU: mor0n. Which is what you have consistently proven to be. I am done with you. Now to figure out if there’s a “block” feature on Disqus, because I’m sick of you wasting my time with your trite, inane, repetitive BS. I can only hope you manage to get a life at some point.

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  11. 21

    just me says

    I’m a middle child, not a big deal to me or my family. Just another mouth to feed! But your obsession with Good Looks (“blonde bombshells”), may have a negative affect on those bombshells. Are you sexualizing them too soon?

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  12. 23

    just me says

    Dear Mom,
    I was your middle child. When you died the only reason I grieved was because there went my last chance at ever having a decent mother. You see once I got older I realized I was supposed to just sit there and be quiet, because you were so busy with the oldest and the baby, or your writing. And I was just so NEEDY, and JUST TRYING TO GET YOUR ATTENTION. So unlike every other child?

    But please don’t spend your life trying to be a Saint by apologizing for your faults. It’s exhausting. And I already know your faults. Sorry not sorry.
    Your Middle Child

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  13. 25

    Meg says

    Thank you so much for this. For giving it to your daughter and giving it to the world of mommies to read. I my biological oldest happens to be the middle child among her siblings and step siblings. I hold a lot of guilt for a number of things but mostly for making her a “middle kid”. This letter really puts a fresh, positive spin on it. And highlights something I already knew and as you know as a mother of an odd number of children can be challenging… I need to make the time and effort to make her know that she is special and her place in our family is just as important as each of the others.

    Thank you! Your babies are lucky to have a mommy that cares as much as you do!

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  14. 26

    Ms. McCroskey says

    I found one thing the author wrote to be rather disturbing. She said that the middle child wanted the one thing that she found hardest to give – her attention. In mentioning the reasons why this was difficult, the author’s writing was listed. The fact that her writing would take any kind of precedent over giving a child the much needed attention she deserves is extremely alarming to me. You want to know why she’s immune to bribes or threats? It’s because the longer she can keep you trying to find what will work, the longer the focus is on her. Trust me, in the long run she will get your attention one way or another, and you may not like the manner she’s chosen.

    As a middle child myself, I was also over looked so that my mother could dote over my youngest sister and attend to the drama that was my older sister. Added to that was a father that was even more needy than those two. She saw that I was independent so she figured it alleviated her from having to deal with me as much as the others. I have a huge amount of resentment towards my mother that I have to work on daily as a result. If she she were to offer me this letter when I was older but not offered the attention I needed, wanted, craved, it would have only been worse. To know that she realized that she could have changed things but maintained the course would be inexcusable.

    My advice to you author, would be to erase this entry. Don’t pen hollow words if you have no interest in changing how you engage your middle child or continue to hold her in the same esteem as you do your writing, with your writing taking a slight lead. This is your child and she deserves every bit of attention she is desperately trying to get from you.

    I have only one child, by my choice, and it stems from how I was brought up. I didn’t want that for my kid. If he comes to me while I’m working on anything and needs me, I put it down. He needs to know that he’s more important that whatever it is that I’m doing. He’s very patient and secure as a result.

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    • 27

      Amy says

      Taking time to write is not selfish. It’s a necessity if you are a writer. You have to make that space to take of yourself, a mother no matter what it is – writing, knitting, wandering the streets. Whatever you have to do to keep yourself sane.

      I’m sure the author give her kids plenty of attention. My children are all close in age and they always wanted more attention. Didn’t matter how much they got, they just wanted ‘more’. Even now, they like to be in the same room with each other and me.

      But the truth is, the kids are going to leave. They have their own lives. We have our lives and we have to cultivate ourselves as people. It sets a good example, too. Mom is important. What mom does counts, it’s not an after-thought to her ‘real’ work of being mom. And learning self-sufficiency is important. Vital.

      The part about not knowing what your supposed to be doing was hilarious to me, btw. We used to call my oldest the Barbie-nazi (not very PC, I know) because she would yell at you if you made Barbie or the others do things the ‘wrong’ way.

      Parenting is hard enough. We need to support each other and realize there are many, many different ways to raise a child or children, and that we will never be ‘perfect’ because there is no such thing. The kids will ALL have bad times, rough patches in live, times where they feel unloved and alone, times when they hate everything including themselves. We can’t protect them from that no matter how much attention we give them.

      So, tl:dr – write, keep writing. Do what you have to to nurture yourself.

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  15. 28

    reb says

    spot on! as a mother and as a mother who recognizes the middle child. I was of sisters. i am a parent of 3 boys. the middle is a tough position. .that was not onlyprofound but beautifully put.so sweet thankyou

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  16. 29

    Tam says

    I too have 3 kiddos, and the oldest and the youngest have health problems. I spend a lot of time taking them to doctors, and a lot of time working. The day I realized I HAD to make time for my beautiful, middle, mini me was when I got home from a day with the oldest at the doctor. My perfect, strong, independent, middle child said ‘I wish I was sick so I could have a day with you.’ That killed me! Strength in middle children only grows, it is so important to make sure it grows into loving acceptance, not bitter resentment. Now I have a date with my middle kiddo every time I take one of the others to the doctor, if I don’t have time, I find it.

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    • 30

      Hannah Forsyth Roach says

      Thank you for finding time. My daughter, Hadassah is my middle child. She is the one with the medical issues (since she turned 3) now 4.5 years. I had to learn to balance time with the other 2 – oldest and youngest. Because of that, I feel like to some small degree I know how to balance my time with all of my children.

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  17. 31

    says

    How wonderful tht=at you would write from the heart. Perhaps it’s not the words that everyone would like to hear… because you recognize that, being human, you were a bit flawed in your mothering 9who has lessons?) — but you wrote from the heart. As the oldest of 5 I was the one who had to forge ahead, lay the path, warn of obstacles and it was very tiring. I wish i could’ve been a middle child… with all that “laying path stuff” done for me. I didn’t have the extra time to discover who I was, only addded responsibilities in taking care of the four siblings that followed. The expectation for “perfection” from the one that was to “set the example” was too much for me — I left just as soon as I could and made of life a good plac, with time to develop an inquisitve mind. Your “middlet” was lucky to have avoided all that and to have had time to become her own self. being in the middle she may have had more time to do so… I think she was lucky — especially so to have had a mother like you. Flawed and all you’re a person I would love to meet to say “well done, felw traveler”. We who do what we can and marshall on understand that time is a precious commodity. Keep on spreading the love.

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  18. 32

    Katie says

    As a middle daughter of three girls – how I wished and idolized our older sister and “failed”… I then decided to follow my own path and become my own person and now as (self proclaimed) black sheep much happier.

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