Katie gets everything and Will gets all the attention!” I was six years old when I said this. I still remember feeling so outraged because the baby once again was at the center of all the attention and my older sister once again was getting something new. It was so unfair.
Even that young, I knew exactly what injustice felt like. Flash forward eight years and life hasn’t changed much. My little brother still gets upset when he doesn’t get what he wants or doesn’t get his way. I would say he’s the classic youngest child. My sister still is always the first kid to get the cool new gadgets and the best new clothes. She is the classic oldest child. And guess who is still stuck in the middle? You guessed it, moi!
Being a middle child is so not easy. I mean, for one thing, I’ve often heard my mother explain to people, sometimes complete strangers, that as the middle child, I am her “equal opportunity fighter” — she can fight up and she can fight down, she says. Now I have to say, I kind of resent that! It makes me sound very combative, as if I’m the one picking the fights with my brother and sister, when I am only defending myself against the things they do to me.
Even though I love my little brother, I have to confess that I’ve been secretly mad at him for stealing my place as the baby in the family. After all, I was the baby for only five years and I am not happy that I had to give up that position. How fair is that, really? One day you’re the one who gets all the attention and everyone tells you how cute you are. Then the next day people are obsessing over this red-faced blob.
Even today, Will hogs most of my mother’s attention. For example, when we go to the mall together, my mom makes me bring my cell phone so that I can go off and shop by myself, while my brother has her buy everything in his path for him. Whenever we go out to dinner, he makes a fuss about the food on the menu, especially if they don’t have French fries, or he whines if he doesn’t get to sit next to both mommy and daddy. Katie usually wants to sit next to our dad, so where does that leave me? At the far side of the table, left out as usual.
It also doesn’t help that Will is this complete all-star at sports and my parents always go to his games to cheer him on. And here’s another thing. I know he’s not helpless, but sometimes he acts like he is, just so he gets extra attention, like when he pretends he can’t read something so my mom sits next to him to read with him. Then he throws me a big smile behind my mom’s back. You can see how he can frequently get on my nerves.
Then there’s my older sister, Katie. I’ve always kind of looked up to her. She’s smart, pretty, and very popular. Plus, she kind of knows where I’m coming from with the baby-place stealing thing. I stole her throne after just three short years. When I was little, I thought she had the coolest clothes. But she would never let me wear them until she was through with them and was willing to give them to me as hand-me-downs. I guess there’s nothing wrong with hand-me-downs, but after she didn’t want them, her clothes just didn’t seem cool any more, so why should I get stuck wearing them, especially since by then they were out of date anyway?
Also, when she was my age, my mom bought her new clothes when she said she needed them. Now we’re on an allowance system so I am on more of a budget than she ever had to be. Hello! How fair is that? So of course, now I want to borrow her things, but she complains that 1.) I don’t ask permission and 2.) I never put things back where they belong so usually we end up fighting about it.
Sometimes I do sneak into her room and borrow her things without asking. Then she accuses me of stealing, and then we have a big argument. My mom tries to be a referee but she loses her patience. She ends up yelling at both of us and sometimes grounds us too. Then, just like Will, Katie gives me a look behind her back, but it’s not a smile; usually it’s an evil glare. Do you see what I have to put up with?
There was an Austrian psychologist named Alfred Adler who studied birth order and its effects on personality. He said the oldest generally receives lots of attention and focus and has parental expectations that are very high. Check. Is often given responsibility and is expected to set an example. Check. Believes must gain and hold superiority over other children. Feels power is her right. Check. All of this describes Katie.
Adler said the youngest is the spoiled but happy child. Check. Knows his place on the family stage and knows it is special. Check. Is given little family responsibility and is always the “baby.” All of this describes Will.
The middle child, said Adler, has neither the rights of the oldest nor the privileges of the youngest. Check. Feels unloved, left out, “squeezed”. Check. Often feels life is unfair. I guess this could be me. Sometimes it really sucks being the middle child.
Other times though, it can actually be okay. Even though my mom thinks I fight up and down, which makes me a troublemaker, there is an upside to being in the middle. For example, I can hang out with my little brother and just be goofy like a kid. We like to ski and snowboard together, things the rest of my family members are not as good at, and I like playing baseball with him. I can also shop with my sister and see movies with her. We like the same music and books and I like her clothes and makeup. There are advantages to having an older sister.
The other great thing about being a middle child is that I am trying to learn from adversity. Adler said that middle children may become fighters of injustice. I like that idea a lot. I could be a lawyer, a diplomat or a reporter and expose unfairness, especially since I know what it is. Not a bad outcome for a middle child, right?
Adler lived from 1870 to 1937 and he was an Austrian doctor and psychologist . He wrote more than 300 books and articles including the Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology and he is considered to be the founder of the school of individual psychology. There are the Alfred Adler Institutes of San Francisco and Northwestern Washington that are named after him.
Is this what you needed to know?