Sunday, November 14, 2010

In the middle

        Growing up I was the middle child in my family.  I mean, technically because their were four of us, I was not exactly the middle child.  I was third and mathematically speaking there was no actual middle but I always felt like the middle child.  I was not one of the oldest so I felt left out by my two sisters.  I was not the youngest.  My younger brother, the only boy in our family, had that honor.  So, at least emotionally speaking, I was the real middle child.  And my behavior and self esteem reflected that in every way.  I was sensitive, cried easily and was teased by my siblings all the time.
    Now I am all grown up.  I do not cry very often (at least not because of things my siblings do or say to me).  I have not been teased much lately unless you count Tim’s silly flirtatious joking, which though it is teasing, is flattering and enjoyable.  Now instead of being one of the kids, I am the mother.
    Of all my children only one looks just like me, my seven and a half year old daughter.  My middle child.  She has inherited not only my dark curly hair and brown eyes but also my middle child status and my sensitivity.  I am very strict about not allowing any teasing in my house, but somehow it happens anyway.  And being the middle child, and the most sensitive, my little look-a-like tends to be the victim.  She may be sensitive but she is also feisty and has held her own around here pretty well up to now.  Lately, though, she seems to be struggling a little more.  She seems to be more easily frustrated, more easily provoked.   It just isn’t easy to be the middle child.  I know.  I still remember.
    I have been a lot more aware of her struggles lately.  I have been watching her while she interacts with her siblings and friends and I see so much of me in her.  I see her trying so hard.  Trying to fit in, trying to get attention, trying to feel special.  I see her trying to mother her baby sister, who clearly prefers big sister #1 if mommy is not around.  I see her getting frustrated with school when she watches her older brother do his work effortlessly as she struggles to master her spelling words and tries to read chapter books that she is just not quite ready for.   I see her enviously watching her little brother as we cheer for his reading successes, which consist of about 7 page Hooked on Phonics books.  I can see that she feels like she is in the shadow of her talented older siblings who get all the privileges and her super cute younger siblings who are praised just because they are little.    
     So, how does a sympathetic mother make the middle child see what a beautiful and special little girl she is?  Amazingly, it is not so hard.  I have noticed, as I watch her with the other kids, that she, herself, shines with even the smallest amount of praise and attention.  A note from daddy telling her she is a great kid.  A hug from mommy when she finally aces a spelling test.  An invitation  to be my little helper when I bake home made bread.  A chance to help keep an eye on the baby while I grade math workbooks.  It doesn’t take much to make her feel special, just a little acknowledgement, just a little encouragement.  But, though it doesn’t seem like much to me, it means the world to her to know she is loved and valued.  I know.  I still remember.  

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