Middle Child Syndrome

I recently read a blog post from a young woman, who, as a middle child, felt less loved than her siblings. This struck a chord with me as my lovely Maisie Moo often feels left out and hard done by. Typically I find this annoying, because I absolutely adore her and the idea that she is loved any less or gets any less attention than the other two seems ridiculous to me.

But reading that young woman’s blog I thought, “It’s irrelevant if I think she’s being ridiculous, if Maisie believes it to be true, then for her it’s fact. ” So what to do? How as parents with middle children can we ensure that they feel as loved, needed and included as the others? At the moment I don’t know, but I’m working on it.

I was talking to my Mum about Maisie and she reminded me that before Izzy came along, Maisie was my tiny partner in crime, my cutie-pie side kick. Then Izzy arrived and that special relationship was put on hold as I tried to feed, comfort and hold a baby who wouldn’t sleep through the night. In the haze of those sleep deprived days, Maisie’s need for me sometimes felt overwhelming and I’m sure there were moments when I pushed her away (not literally!) when what she really needed was a good ol’ love-up.

I’ve spoken to several other parents of three, who all say the same thing, that the middle child has this skewed view of somehow being loved less. Across the board the parents say this isn’t true but there must be something in the dynamic of a family with three kids that makes it feel true for those middle kids.

Maisie is such a “good” girl, obedient, sweet, creative, inquisitive and funny, yet when she’s feeling shut out, she’s a little monster. It’s the little monster tendencies manifesting themselves as jealousy and brattishness, that make it harder for parent to act affectionately. If a child is being unpleasant, then unpleasant responses tend to come back at them. This is a cycle that I can see could form over time for middle children and it’s this cycle I want so badly to avoid/break.

I can certainly see how relationships with middle children and parents can falter. It’s easy to plop all bad behaviour into the same category, instead of taking the time to question whether or not the bad behaviour is caused by something deeper. Over years I can imagine that that anxiety and uncertainty can fester, so that by the time they’re teenagers their relationship with their parents and even siblings is pretty disfunctional.

When I put myself into Maisie’s shoes, I can see how hard it must have been for her. We went from spending all our time together to me giving her much less attention and sending her off to nursery. In reality I’ve had much less time with Maisie than the other two. Sam had me all to himself for nearly three years and Izzy has had a similar amount if not more time, as the other two are at school full time now. I know this is the same for all children who get a sibling but for some reason it’s the middle kids who feel it the most.

The heartbreaking thing is that when I give her one on one attention, she blossoms, she’s delightful and she’s an enormous help. She melts my heart and I think to myself, “I must do this every day. ” But then life happens and I don’t do it every day.

I guess it all comes down to discipline. Maisie needs me to make more of an effort with her so I will, I have to because our relationship is precious and so is she. No one else can do it, no one else has the honour of being her mother, that’s my job and it’s a job that I want to get right. It’s not that she doesn’t need her Dad because she does and she adores him, but she needs my affection and attention more at the moment.

I wish it were as easy as it sounds, I wish I could just tell Maisie how fantastic I think she is and for her to believe me. All I hope it’s that when she’s a young woman, she won’t be writing blogs about how unloved she feels, she’ll be writing blogs about other more exciting things, secure in the knowledge that my unconditional love for her is limitless.

Sent from my Sony Xperia™ smartphone


4 thoughts on “Middle Child Syndrome

  1. I don’t have a middle child but can tell you that my elder child felt much the same when her brother came along. I think something that is worth doing no matter how many kids you have, I’m six of seven, is to define your relationship with each one. Your first child is special in a way as they get your undivided attention but then they are the guinea pig who you learn to be a mum with. Your middle child has benefited from a more confident mum, she probably got the best of you as a mum in a way and it would be good for her to hear that, in that you were more relaxed and confident you didn’t pressure her to reach milestones as we all do with the first even if we don’t realise and more than that she was your first, she was your first little girl and special because of that. We kind of think of our eldest and our baby as our beginning and end and I just think there is value in finding something unique to slap as a label on a middle child. I know we dint need labels and justification we know what we know, but perhaps they need a label, I’m not the first, I’m not the baby but I’m the first baby girl I’m the one who taught mum how to be a mum to my little sister I’m the one who had my mum’s experienced mothering first… Just silly things like that.

  2. I’m right there with you. My middle son (who happens to be my little mini-me) was my partner until the baby came along. I’m trying hard to figure out how to make him feel special and help him know how special he really is.

    One thing we do that maybe you do too is we make a big deal over how he gets to be a little brother AND a big brother. We talk about it a lot and try to make that his special thing.

    Also, I try to bring just him along to do things as often as I can. If my husband is home I leave the other kids and take my-middle-man grocery shopping and we share a treat when we are done.

    And, lastly (then I stop talking your “ear” off, I want to establish dates with each of my kids. I don’t know if it will be weekly or monthly but I want to take them each, solitarily out to do something fun together to reconnect. I hope to do that soon.

    Good luck!

    • Yes! We do the whole big sister little sister thing too and she really likes that. I’ve also been recommended “love bombing” where you say to your child “you’ve got 20 minutes where I’m all yours. We’ll do or play whatever you want. No interruptions no distractions.” That’s also a hit but need to do it more! Good luck back at cha! If only they knew how much we loved them.

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