There’s a new addition under consideration for the endangered species list — the middle child.
Researchers who track such things say that more couples are having fewer children, often stopping with one or two. Middle children are disappearing, to which middle children everywhere respond, “We’re surprised anybody noticed!”
Middle children will tell you that theirs is the most forlorn place in a family. Squished in the middle, theirs is the birthday Mom is frequently confused on, the one for which Grandma forgot to send a card.
They claim nobody notices that they even exist. Or gradually cease to exist in this case.
There’s even a movement to formally recognize Middle Children Day. For a group that claims to be overlooked, they do a good job grabbing the spotlight.
When our middle child said she felt invisible, we told her that being the middle child was special — like being the filling in a sandwich. Her siblings were simply the bread on either side. Which would she rather be — the yummy filling or plain ol’ bread? We told her not to tell her siblings we had referred to them as plain ol’ bread.
We told our oldest that he had a special place in our hearts because he was our first, the first baby we held in our arms, our first tiny miracle. We also told him to keep that to himself and that, no, he could not put a sign on his bedroom door that said, “A Miracle Lives Here.”
We told our youngest that her older siblings were like the first pancakes — test pancakes because you’ve got the skillet too hot or not hot enough. But by the third pancake, you’ve got it down to a perfect golden brown. She smiled knowingly. On weekends she’d ask for pancakes and turn up her nose at the first two.
I come from a family of two children and am the firstborn, the proverbial bossy big sister, three years older than my brother. I had some size on him and gladly wielded my power over him for a few brief fleeting years. They were good years as I recall. Then he shot up, grew to be a good foot taller, a great deal larger, and is still paying me back.
Middle children help shape a family in a unique way. They keep life off balance. When there are three or more children in a family, kids learn how to scramble for a window seat in the car. Singles and pairs never get that opportunity. They grow up thinking everybody gets a window seat. Life is setting them up for disappointment.
Three or more siblings learn how to form alliances. One day you side with an older sibling, the next day you may team with a younger sibling. It’s great training for the business world or a career in politics.
My sister-in-law grew up in a family of eight children. She has amazing coping skills, quick reflexes and is fearless — all of which she learned sandwiched smack in the middle of four brothers.
Never underestimate the value of the middle.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.