When my middle son was born, he wasn't yet my middle son, he was the baby. Yet even then, some of his strong characteristics seemed to foreshadow another baby in our future. Like tantrums. Serious tantrums that would leave us with our heads cocked like a retriever or wondering if he needed medical attention. And social acuity. He would chat up the postman, a dog walker, a teacher. He was always finding a lap to sit on that wasn't necessarily mine. He was the boy I worried would happily get in the car for free candy. He didn't even need the candy, just a ready ear for his chatty little mouth. And negotiation skills? Dang if that kid couldn't sell a fur coat to a cat.
He had middle written all over him.
Two and a half years later, he officially was a middle child -- and not just a middle child, a middle boy between two boys. Double whammy. I focused all my attention on giving him attention. I would ignore the baby in front of him and say things like, "He can wait. What do you need?" I carved out time especially for him. "Just you and me." Wink wink. "Let's go get donuts." I allied myself with him. "We're the only ones in the family with green eyes. We see better in the dark. We're like super heroes."
I thought that if I just was careful of his feelings and was extra attentive, that we would sidestep the middle child syndrome altogether.
But he wouldn't let me do it.
When I ignored the baby, he'd remind me that I should check on him. When I offered time alone, often he'd turn me down or enlist one of his brothers to come along. When I allied myself with him, he'd call me out. "That's not true, mommy."
I wanted to protect him, but the more I focused on him, the more he fought it off. It was like he already had a shield of armor around his heart, which pretty much broke mine. I thought I had sealed his fate and he was punishing me.
But really, he was unconsciously fighting against this notion that he needed more attention. That there was something wrong with him or at least his lot in life. Always the defender of justice, he wanted what the other boys got -- no more, no less.
I had been wrong. I was so worried, I was over-doing it. He fit in just fine with his own unique gifts; his own strengths and weaknesses. There is nothing wrong with being a middle child. It's the center of things. And that's usually where he is in most situations, right in the center. If his older brother is having an argument, he'll interject himself into it. If his younger brother is vying for another snack, he'll point out why I should give him one. If there's a playdate somewhere, he needs to be on it.
He's the only one of my children to really put himself out there and take chances. He's the bold one; the one who will try things (Well, except food, but that's a whole different topic.), the one who speaks his mind; who isn't afraid of mistakes. He's super stubborn, independent, responsible, a skillful manipulator, sensitive and full of fire.
No matter the labels, my kid knows who he is.
He is my baby.
And he's right where he belongs.
Beginning, middle and end of story.