National Middle Child Day is celebrated every August 12, but much like middle children, it has yet to be noticed!
I’ll jump right in and say I think some of the common associations of middle children are (partially) true.
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I am an exact middle child; I have one older and one younger sibling.
So I had no one else to get lost in the shuffle with me.
Being overlooked and never at the top of the priority list was something I experienced often.
However, I’d like to say that despite the seemingly negative tone in commentary that follows, I am not jaded about being a middle child.
Reflections on being the middle child
I don’t think I’m disaffected.
I’m certainly not scarred.
My parents’ shortcomings in parenting their middle child don’t upset me.
I don’t fault them for helplessly falling into the hole that often swallows parents of more than two children.
As I am now an adult, I believe I am better off for being the middle child, and I am grateful for the Divine gift of my birth order.
All that said, growing up as a middle child did kind of suck.
So this article is for all the middle children out there to celebrate our special day.
A day that is not memorable and pretty easy to overlook!
In this article, I will discuss:
- Common traits of middle children & their parents
- My experience as a middle child
- Why I’m grateful for my childhood experience
A brief history of National Middle Child Day
National Middle Child Day was established by Elizabeth Walker in 1986.
Walker wanted a special day to honor middle children, who she felt often went unrecognized or were forgotten.
One interesting tidbit is that the International Middle Child’s Union wants to change National Middle Child Day to July 2, which falls in the exact middle of the calendar year.
But that could make it easier for people to remember middle children, upsetting the universe’s natural balance.
Traits of middle children and their parents
Frank J. Sulloway authored Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives (published in 1996).
In his book, he argues that later-born children (including middles) are more rebellious and open to new experiences than their older siblings, and based on myself, I’d say I agree.
In addition to being non-conformist, some other traits that specialists have qualified in middle children include:
- High independence
- Increased sociability
- Increased adaptability
- Having a strong sense of justice
- Having a knack for peacekeeping and mediation
You might notice that all of these sound good!
Despite the theory that middle children grow up jealous and resentful, the above traits sound ideal for producing confident, high-functioning, capable adults.
There are also some theories related to the parents of middle children, which are:
- Caring less about a middle child’s milestones
- Being less protective or overprotective of middle children
- Inadvertently comparing the middle child to older and younger siblings
- Expecting middle children to “keep the peace” or be more understanding than siblings
- Overlooking their needs due to assumed adaptability and resiliency, just deciding “they can handle it”
While none of these are proven statistics, based on my experience, most of them ring true.
I think it’s evident that the more children one has, the less time they have to give them all the same consideration.
And the less they appreciate the same milestones they witnessed with firstborns.
In many ways, it’s just natural.
My middle child experience
Growing up, I did feel overlooked by my parents.
My older brother was the “prince” whose firsts and achievements were always celebrated.
My younger sister was more catered to and seemed to escape the mundane things I had to do, like chores.
I always got the sense that I was not special.
It often felt like I was just there; nobody sought to know or connect with me.
When I did seek attention or validation, I got it in a very quick, short, “let’s move on” kind of way.
I felt like my parents didn’t have time or didn’t want to make time for me.
One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my living room watching Sesame Street and realizing my mom and older brother were gone.
I wandered around the house looking for them until I eventually peered out the front window and found them in the yard.
Learning to ride a bike
My mom was teaching my brother to ride a bike without training wheels.
She used one hand to steady his handlebars and the other to push him by the bike seat.
When she let go, he continued to stay upright for a while.
She started jumping up and down and waving her hands in the air.
“Woo hoo! Way to go! That’s great! I knew you could do it!”
I distinctly remember how happy she seemed to teach him something new and how overjoyed she was when he caught on.
Fast forward two years later, and I wanted to give no training wheels a try.
I asked my mom one evening if she would teach me, and she seemed irritated but agreed.
I was excited at the prospect of riding a bike like the “big kids,” but even more so at the idea that my mom and I would have fun together.
She would be proud of me for learning something new.
We moved to the front yard, and she said, “Okay, I will push you. You just balance and keep pedaling.”
She gave me one hard, running push.
Then let go.
I made it maybe 10 feet before I fell.
“Okay, come back and try again,” she said exhaustedly.
I made it a little farther and probably could have kept going if I hadn’t gotten scared of falling and stopped pedaling.
“No! What are you doing? You have to keep pedaling!” she yelled as I lay in the grass.
Turning to my dad, who was working on something in the driveway, she said, “You might as well put her training wheels back on. She’s never going to get it. I don’t have time to stand here all night.”
And that was the end of that.
I didn’t get any encouragement.
I didn’t get any excited shouts at my progress or the fact that I was trying.
Instead, I got the usual “I don’t have time for this” response.
A phrase I heard a lot as the middle child.
So I continued practicing until I eventually got the hang of it some days later.
When I had, I excitedly asked her to come outside and watch me.
While she stood at the open front door and watched for a few seconds, there was never even a smile on her face.
She simply said, “Good job,” before disappearing into the house to return to whatever she was doing.
Not only was my achievement not celebrated, but her reaction made me feel like she didn’t like spending time with me (or maybe didn’t even like or love me) as much as she did my brother.
This type of stuff was a common occurrence throughout my teen years.
This behavior extended to sports too
In high school, I played soccer, and after school, each day, I would attend practice until 5 p.m.
Although my mom would have been able to pick me up from soccer practice, she always opted not to.
She said she was “too busy” and always had “other things to do,” so I would have to make the 25-minute walk home each evening.
It was not the end of the world, and I didn’t think much of it then.
Until a few years later, my little sister was in the same position, attending soccer practice after school until 5 p.m.
And guess what?
My mom would get in the car daily and pick her up from practice.
Even if my mom had other things she needed to do, I would often be ordered to complete them or stand in for her so she could make the time to go pick up my sister.
When I realized this discrepancy, I asked my mom why she always picked up my sister but not me.
“Because I don’t want her walking all that way.”
Um, excuse me?
She had never cared if I had to walk all that way, so why was it a problem for my sister too?
The truth was she didn’t have a good reason; I was just the middle child.
She was just willing to cater to my sister more than she ever was to me, essentially, I think, because my sister was her baby.
Why I’m grateful to be a middle child
These are just a few examples of how my folks parented me differently than my siblings.
Again, it mostly felt like they didn’t want to make time for me or felt they couldn’t.
And I’m not upset about it.
Maybe it bothered me at different times or when I realized it was happening.
But now that I’m grown, I know it made me stronger.
Not only tougher but more independent and outgoing.
The lack of time and support I received as a child made me far more self-sufficient, but it also taught me to love myself whether anyone else did or not.
I didn’t have a lot of reassurance through words or actions that I was loved or valued.
So, I developed a sense of love and appreciation for myself that many people don’t have.
I learned that I didn’t need to get validation from others.
I could give it to myself, and it felt ten times better coming from the inside than the outside, anyway.
The self-worth I cultivated growing up as a middle child has given me the strength and confidence to overcome tremendous obstacles in my life.
I can pursue whatever I want without needing anyone’s help.
Thank you, Universe
Essentially, being a middle child with the parents I had made me into a person I’m proud to be today, which might not have happened otherwise.
So, thank you to my mom and dad, thanks to my older and younger sibs, and thanks, universe.
You all had a Divine hand in making me the badass I am today, and I appreciate all of you for your contributions.
Are you a middle child?
Share your stories with us in the comment section below.
And don’t forget to click the share button so all the other middle children you know will have their day in the sun!