Are you a middle child, the second-born of three siblings? Have you ever felt jealous? Especially towards your siblings. Are you an introvert with low self-esteem? Then you may be suffering from Middle Child Syndrome! They say it can even lead to psychotic behaviour. But don’t panic! I have also felt some of the above at various times in my life but I think it hasn’t yet led to ‘psychotic behaviour’. Thank God!
Recently I happened to read about it while casually browsing through some magazines in the local British Library. I found it very interesting especially because I am a middle child. So after getting back home, I googled it. I found that in the US, 12 August is observed as National Middle Child Day to recognize the middle-born children in families.
Now, why all the fuss about a middle child? Researchers say that our birth order can have some effect on our personality. The first child usually gets the benefits of the ‘firsts’ he/she accomplishes and the responsibilities of being the eldest. The last child is the baby of the family and is often pampered and spoiled. But the ‘poor’ middle child has nothing special to claim about himself/herself and is often unnoticed!
Although ‘Middle Child Syndrome’ sounds bad, some researchers suggest that being a middle child actually has some surprising advantages, like they are more diplomatic and self-aware. Middles are good team players and are good listeners too! The Journal of Genetic Psychology claims that middle children are very adaptable by nature and are quite independent which is likely to result in a more successful future.
With all these I became confused. So I decided to scan through my childhood life as a middle child. As part of this exercise and out of my own curiosity, I asked a few of my friends from my school and college days. They said I was a very happy and active girl and used to behave ‘normal’, unlike now! 🙂
I have a brother who is 2 years and 6 days elder to me, and who I had to somehow tolerate. 🙂 My sister is 3 years (3 years, 4 months, 24 days, to be precise!) younger to me, who always used to be crying and getting all the attention! To be frank, I don’t have any childhood memories of sleeping next to my mother as my sister arrived when I was just 3 years. Mom was always busy with her as she used to get fever often! Maybe to compensate, I am the one who now gets to sleep near Mom whenever I get a chance!
I used to go to a girls-only school, and my brother to a boys-only school. When I was in the 2nd grade, my sister and our cousin of the same age, joined kindergarten in my school. They always expected me to carry their school and lunch bags for them as I was bigger! It dawned on me that I was not a child anymore and I was not likely to be excused for the ‘bad behaviour’ of not carrying their bags along with mine. Thus the feeling that I was a grown-up and had the responsibility of taking care of the younger ones set in my mind at the age of 6 itself!
I was always Papa’s pet. I think he loved me the most amongst the three of us. It was mainly because I resembled him a lot. Also, his favourite subject maths was my favourite too, though only from the 7th grade. Till that time I was totally confused with multiplication and division. The multiplication table was my biggest enemy then! And Papa always used to call me on the previous day of the maths exam to ‘check’ whether I have learned my lessons. To give an example of my unpleasant experience, when I was in the 4th grade, as usual Papa called me on the previous day of the maths exam and asked me: ‘If one mango costs 50 paise (half a rupee) then how much do 7 mangoes cost?’ Before I could make up my mind whether to multiply or divide or subtract or add, our old housemaid who hadn’t gone to school at all interrupted and promptly gave the answer! I think in those days I used to pray for her to die!
Anyway, when I reached 7th grade, I think there was a change in my stars, and suddenly I could solve mathematical problems easily. I became a diehard fan of maths and started loving the multiplication table more than anything! I became a civil engineer because of Papa. I actually wanted to take up electrical/electronics engineering, but I had to choose civil engineering obeying Papa’s directive! I was a very obedient child then, which might be a middle-child characteristic!
Papa always used to give the sweets packet to me whenever he bought one on his way back home from his office. Now I wonder if my siblings were jealous then! I need to check it out with them now. Who knows, maybe they have been suffering from the first and last child syndrome all along! 🙂
I think I have some of the so-called traits of the middle child like putting up a good fight, taking the role of a mediator, or giving advice or counselling those who come to me! I think I am a very good listener too.
I never ever felt that I was more neglected than either of my siblings. And I never had to try harder to get noticed maybe because I am more comfortable not being noticed! At the same time, I don’t think I am an introvert! So I have come to the conclusion that the ‘middle child syndrome’ doesn’t actually exist or is not always true. I had a perfect and wonderful childhood. Maybe I escaped from the syndrome because of Papa’s close attention and care, as Mom was busy with my younger sister!
When I was young most of the neighbourhood families had 3 or more children and the majority of my friends were either the middle or the second children of their families. But most of the old friends who still keep in touch with me are the first children! In my home, my husband and son are the first children, but my daughter is a second, not-middle child! I am the only middle child in my home!
Anyway as a middle child, I am in very good company with notable US presidents and celebrities such as Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Bill Gates and Steve Forbes! Heard that Donald Trump is also a middle child! 😉
Nowadays we see either one or a maximum of two children in any family. So in a few more years, the so-called ‘middle child syndrome’, if true, will completely be wiped out from the planet!
So what is your birth order? Are you a middle child? List down all your friends right from kindergarten and see how many of them are middle children. Do you think you or any of them have this ‘syndrome’? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.
Happy empty-nesting especially to all the middle children over there 🙂
You may forget your childhood, but your childhood does not forget you!