Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In the middle

The other day I had an "Aha" moment. (Isn't that what Oprah calls them?) A moment when something clicks and you think "Oh...that's why it's that way!"

In the midst of some middle child crisis, I thought to myself, "This is why some people only want two kids. Or maybe even just one." Well, I'm sure that's not the only criteria and not true for everyone, of course, but I'll bet there are some middle children out there who decided that they didn't want their children to have to suffer through being a middle child and so they decided there wouldn't be a middle child.

I am #4 of 6 kids. So I am a middle child, but there's also a nearly 14-year-gap between me and my older sister. She and my two brothers are much older. So, I was a middle child who was kind of an oldest child and I have twin sisters who are two years younger than I am. So, I picked up some of those oldest child characteristics, like being responsible and independent. However, I have some classic middle child characteristics, like that I was often an attention hog, felt left out and was jealous of my siblings. Perhaps my most horrible display of those middle child feelings was when my mother cut my hair because I got gum in it or something. I selfishly decided that since my flowing, long hair was gone, my sisters should also have short hair. I cut it. And not in a discreet way that it could be easily covered, I severed off an entire ponytail on one of them. My mom had no choice to cut it short, shorter than she'd even cut mine. Looking back now, I can't believe what an awful, evil thing it was to do. But when I was 5 or 6, I felt completely justified.

I have five boys. That makes three middle children. However, #2 is 5 years younger than my oldest. That kind of puts him in the "oldest" category much of the time, because his teenage brother isn't present. He seems much like the older brother, not the middle brother.

Boy #3 is in the true middle. Not so much a middle-kid character, though. Not starved for attention. Not bothered much by being outdone. Doesn't seem to care if his brothers get something he doesn't. Not the jealous type. Again, seems to have the characteristics more of an older brother, not a middle one.

Then there is child #4. He fits the middle thing to a "T." He's more on the sensitive side. His feelings get hurt more easily. He's often the loudest. The most active. The most energetic. He definitely seeks attention and sometimes it's not in the nicest of ways. He is very eager to please. Even when he does something to make you shake your head, you know it's coming from his deep-down desire to be seen and heard and recognized and given approval. He is often trying to make others laugh. Often trying to seek attention and be patted on the back. Sometimes he goes about it in the sweetest manner. Sometimes not. He has yet to cut off his brother's hair, though, so it could always be worse. I find myself often trying to explain the best choices to make and the best ways to get the positive attention he craves.

One day recently, I was driving the boys to school and looked in my rear view mirror to see him wearing a Napoleon Dynamite wig from the bin of Halloween costumes. It caught me by surprise. He had a huge grin on his face. I chuckled. He had gotten my attention. Bingo! That's what he was looking for. Then I told him that he couldn't bring it into school with him. He objected, but removed it. We get to school, the kids file out and as I see him entering the school, the wig is back on. All I could think of was the episode of the Brady Bunch when Jan gets a curly black wig and creates a fake boyfriend all to try and steal some of the spotlight from her older sister, Marcia, and get more attention. Jan, after all, was the epitome of the middle child and several of the shows were centered on her lack of being the center of things and how it made her feel. He was definitely having a "Jan" moment as I was having my "Aha" moment.

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