Lately I’ve been thinking about my middle daughter. Stuck between a medically complicated older sister and a very spoiled (but very sweet) baby sister, I’ve recently begun to wonder if she is struggling with typical middle child issues. Since the baby in our family did not come along until she was six, my middle was “the baby” for quite some time. In fact, her father referred to her as “the baby” right up until the day her sister was born. Then, just like that, “the baby” was someone else. I wonder, did this shift in our family dynamic affect her negatively? I have to say, rather guiltily, it’s taken me almost five years to even consider this possibility.
My oldest suffers from a chronic neurological condition. While most of our days are spent typically, there are periods of time, from time to time, that require our focus as parents to shift primarily to her and to her needs. This has been the case in recent weeks and I have noticed that my middle seems a bit more emotional. She has seemed more needy of my time and attention than normal. Is the stress of our oldest’s condition impacting her as well? Or is she resentful of the time and energy we give to her sister?
I had, of course, read and heard about “middle child” issues before but I have never felt that any of that applied to my middle child. My middle is very different than her older sister in looks, personality, interests, and strengths. My oldest has dark hair, my middle is blonde. My oldest is quiet, my middle is loud. My oldest is a reader, my middle is a runner. My oldest has several medical diagnoses, visits many doctors several times a year, and takes daily medications. My middle has rarely visited a doctor outside of her yearly check-ups. She seldom even misses a day of school. My oldest is slightly clumsy (like her mother), physically weaker than her sister, but incredibly brave. She is frightened of nothing and takes on every new challenge with gusto. My middle is athletic and fast, physically strong, but scared of bumblebees, flu shots, and ghosts. She’s a worrier and she is cautious.
My middle is also very different than her younger sister. While very similar in looks, the baby is so much younger than her they never compete in any facet of their lives. With the exception of the time spent at home, their lives do not even intertwine. I think my middle sees the baby almost as a real-life baby doll that she can help take care of and play with. She certainly isn’t a sibling that she must distinguish herself from to gain my notice. Their age difference does that naturally. True, the baby is showered with affection and attention but my middle is right there with the rest of us spoiling and indulging our baby. I have never felt as if she resented or disliked our family’s new baby in any way.
Despite all of this, as my middle eases into adolescence I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t given her the type of attention she may be craving or if she has begun to feel as if her role in our family is in someway less important or acknowledged. Just looking through my posts I realized I’ve yet to write anything specifically about her despite writing several about my oldest, and a couple about my baby.
Dave Matthews, father of twin girls, has used the name of one of his daughters, Grace, in many songs. He has written one song, however, that includes the name of his other daughter, Stella. I know he must have been wracked with “Daddy Guilt” when he wrote this song since the lyric lays that guilt right out there for all to hear. He sings, “Stella said, Daddy, when are you going to put me in a song??”. So, in that spirit, here’s your song, Olivia.
I cannot imagine my family without my bright, talented, fun, and beautiful middle child. She amazes me, in some small way, every day. There are days when I feel as if my life is swirling around me like a tropical storm. Olivia, however, is the eye of that storm. She is my calm. She’s in that peaceful, quiet middle, right where I need her to be, usually with a smile, or a song, or a joke. I will work harder to be right where she needs me to be–by her side, reminding her, whenever necessary, of how special she truly is.
Thanks for being you, Olivia. I love you.