By Katie Walsh | Opinions Editor
There is typically one member who is looked past a bit when considering typical family dynamics. There’s the oldest child, who paves the way for the younger siblings and is in charge, and there’s the baby of the family, the one who gets away with the most and is doted upon as being the little one forever.
But wait, who’s that sibling that’s caught in between the outliers? Oh, it’s just the stereotypically overlooked and independent middle child. His or her siblings love to tease and pick on the excluded monkey in the middle.
According to Parents magazine’s Natalie Lorzeni’s “How Birth Order Shapes Personality,” middle children are often not granted much of parents’ attention as it is often focused on managing the successes of the firstborn and coping with the tantrums of the last born. Middles attempt to forge their own identity by differing themselves so they get attention, making them the hardest to label because they will differentiate themselves by any means. They also are typically teased by the older and younger sibling.
So remind me what’s wrong with being the middle child? Besides frequent attacks from our united siblings, of course.
It’s easy to pick out the middle when they’re amongst their siblings. Imagine hearing this conversation between three little girls, obviously sisters by their matching curly hair.
“Your ears are getting pointier,” the older says to the middle. “If they keep getting pointy, then you’ll turn into an elf. Then we’ll have to send you to the North Pole. Or you’ll turn into a leprechaun. Then we’ll send you to leph world.”
The poor middle sister, with apparently a ticket to Santa’s Workshop, begins running straight to the mirror every morning to see if her ears have gotten any worse. The oldest shakes her head with mild regret for her lost younger sister, while the youngest sister is there to inform her that they do look a bit worse than yesterday. These girls affirm the stereotype that the oldest and the youngest love to pick on the middle sister.
I am the proud aunt of these three little girls. While I claim no favorites, Layla, my middle niece who has yet to turn into an elf or a leprechaun, has my empathy as we share a common birth order. My older sister is the girls’ mother and my 15-year-old brother make me the middle.
The difference that some like to claim disqualifies me from having middle child syndrome is the wide age gap between my siblings and myself: nine years between my sister and me, seven between my brother and me. In contrast, Layla’s older sister, Juliette, is two years older and her younger sister, Missouri, is two years younger than her, making Layla the perfect middle.
To set the record straight, no matter what the age difference is between the oldest and the youngest, they will team up against the “neglected” middle. As proof, some of my fondest memories include getting ambushed by my brother and sister at the neighborhood bus stop after school. Mind you, my sister was nearing her 20s and my brother was approaching preschool.
In late April every year from fourth grade until eighth, my siblings would come out of the bushes by the bus stop and attack me with water balloons and force me to finish my trek home drenched and defeated. Sometimes I was able to throw my bookbag and homework off to safety on dry land, other times it got caught in the downpour. When I foresaw the attack and attempted to sprint off to safety, my sister would hold me back and let my monster of a little brother get me with his latest super soaker.
Just because they’re 16 years apart does not mean they never joined forces to tease the middle.
Being the middle child is a chance to learn from the older and younger siblings and reap the benefits of interacting with each. While pretending to be mature around my sister’s friends, I still got to play pirates in the backyard with my little brother.
Being the middle child has its gains and pains. As Layla and I struggle to forge our own identities, I think she knows that if she does turn into a leprechaun, Aunt Katie will happily escort her to Ireland and we’ll have a ball together.
Katie Walsh is a senior English and philosophy major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.