Middle-child syndrome

Someone told me her husband wouldn’t let them have three kids “because he doesn’t want the middle child to have middle-child syndrome.”

I didn’t reply as I should have, that maybe if he was worried about that, he should parent his kids better. I did say, “In that case, you should have four kids,” but she said no, that would never do. I guess only a maniac would have four kids.

Keep in mind that when she said this to me, I was pregnant with Kiddo#3, and she left the very strong implication that we were going to ruin Kiddo#2 because she was the middle child. And somehow, being a middle child is Teh Awful.

Which is ridiculous. You can analyze birth order any way you like (and some people have) but no one ever declares that babies born in a certain family position are doomed. Well, other than my friend’s all-knowing husband.

Kiddo#2, laughing when she sees me knit with four double-pointed needles: “Is that for when you have four hands?”

Kiddo#2 is sensitive and compassionate. She has a heart deep as a river, and she’s richly intuitive. Observant, she takes in the world and processes it and reaches conclusions without stating them.

It’s hard to tell how much she absorbs because, like Mary, she “treasures all these things in her heart.”  As above, she laughs a lot at the ridiculousness of the world.

Has she fallen into the peace-keeper role? Somewhat, but it’s not certain she wouldn’t have done that anyhow. She, like me, is an NF, and NFs are the diplomatic personalities. We find common ground. We sense hidden needs and meet them without always knowing how.

Falling in the middle position of the family structure would only heighten those skills in her, while taking off the pressure to perform which would have dominated had she been the oldest.

Of course, now we have Kiddo#4, so there are two middle children. And while Kiddo#3 is many things, no one will ever accuse him of being quiet, shy or retiring. (He’s another NF, but he’s more outgoing and he’s a rule-breaker rather than a rule-follower.)  I haven’t seen the spectre of Middle Child Syndrome looming over him lately. If it ever does, he’ll probably tackle it and laugh and then go ride his bicycle around it.


  1. XDPaul

    Yeah, Second-to-Last Child Syndrome isn’t any better, but I come from a small family of four siblings, a tragedy from which I have barely recovered. My roommate in college had it so much better. He was one of 14. I believe he suffered from Wave 1 Middle Child Syndrome, Wave 2, Team 1 Middle Child Syndrome and eventually Faceless Mob Syndrome. I believe his life story was the inspiration for the Borg.

    His wedding was a blast. Although, with all the people, we’re still not sure if the woman he married was a relative or not. They finished up (for now) with a managable eight children. The twins were #4 and #5, so at least they get to share the unmanagable horrors of Middle Child Syndrome together!

  2. philangelus


    I have Oldest Child Syndrome. My stepbrother has Used To Be Oldest Child Syndrome Until His Father Remarried.

    It’s occurred to me that if we just put “syndrome” after any place in the birth order, we all come pre-equipped with an excuse for any behavior we manifest. Ever.

    That wedding sounds like a lot of fun, though!

  3. Jenni

    I was the middle child – and though mom told me not to tell the others – the favorite. 😉
    Actually, I believe my parents managed to skate by this whole issue by loving us each in our own way, unconditionally and never promoting sibling rivalry.

    Of course, I still followed my mom down the lane of over-achievedness but that wasn’t due to trying to outshine my brother (well, unless you count the time he got me to wash my hair with a bar of soap and she wondered why I was so dull…)

  4. Sirius Vegakitty

    I was the older of the two Middle Children, no. 2 out of 4. The other middle child was my only brother. I’ve always been big on celebrating birthdays because that was the only day out of the year that I was sure my parents remembered they had four children. They had other ways of telling us girls apart; I was the only redhead, and had one blond sister and one brunette sister. But because I was one of a very few non-hotheads in the family I know I was ignored a lot of the time.

    But I’m proud of who and what I am.

  5. Cricket

    I was the eldest. Multiple times! From grandma on down, my ancestors were always the eldest of their generation. I’m 40. The youngest in my generation is 13. My son is eldest at 10. I never noticed the pressure at the time. I remember being a good kid, but I hear I sometimes got away with a lot because I was the first. My cousins were all upset that their mother wouldn’t let them get their ears pierced till they reached the age I was when mine were pierced — 12.

    I always felt older than I was. In hindsight, I skipped a few phases growing up, which I ended up doing later.

    My son carries on my tradition. He’s the first great-grandchild all around. (Well, not if you count Mom’s nephew’s stepson, but he became stepson after my son was born.)

    My uncle was middle child. He claims it was always “You two youngest do this thing you’re not excited about,” and “You two eldest do…” but Dad and other uncle disagree. He seemed to do more idiotic things than the others — at least he talks about doing them more than the others.

  6. philangelus

    A special note to the people who reach this page by googling “Middle Child Syndrome Free Essay”: Do your own work. Really. I have no problem with using the web for schoolwork, but copying and pasting something that should be a school essay is only cheating yourself in the long run.

    The best thing you can learn at school is how to read a ton of information from other people, sort it to sift out the bullpuckey, and combine it all in your head in order to form your own opinion. That’s called ‘informing yourself.’ It’s a lot harder than cutting and pasting from a free essay site, but that’s how humans learn, and more importantly, it’s how human beings become rational animals rather than herd beasts.

    If you think I’m wrong and it’s better to cut and paste a free essay for an easy B- grade, leave me an essay in the comment box telling me why. Make sure to have three points backing up your assertion, and include introductory and concluding paragraphs.

  7. Ivy

    It is better to cut and paste a free essay for an easy B grade because it teaches the fundamental skills needed in this information-glutted age. It teaches a student how to: quickly locate appropriate resources, allocate time to priority projects, and avoid reduplication of effort.

    The Internet is a huge place, with well over 100 million registered domains. It is also the center point for rapid information retrieval. Therefore, it is important for today’s student to hone their skills in crafting appropriate search engine queries and quickly evaluating proposed hits to locate needed information. A student that can find an essay that isn’t being used by his or her classmates has shown excellence in this category.

    Time management guru Stephen Covey, in his landmark work The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, talked about the need to pick and choose tasks and fit them in according to their priority. He asserts that one of the biggest time sinks we have is taking on projects that we shouldn’t, or spending too much time on them. People must understand what tasks they should and should not be spending a great deal of time on. A student with eyes towards, say, a career in network engineering should spend more time studying math, computers, logic, and systems and less on sociology. Such a student, in delegating lower-priority work, is showing a keen sense of time-management and planning skills.

    Of all the wasteful practices facing today’s companies, the worst by far is the reduplication of effort. Human resources increasingly rank as the most expensive factor of doing business and no one wants to have to pay for the same thing twice. Therefore, companies are far more eager to hire those candidates who have demonstrated an ability to capitalize on the work already carried out. As the adage goes, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.”

    In conclusion, we are no longer in a Renaissance age, where people can be expected to be well-rounded and thoroughly adept in a variety of pursuits. There is simply too much information, and it’s growing at an exponential rate. Today’s student must learn to accommodate this by availing himself of the resources that are the cornerstone of the 21st century, and developing the skills needed to make ample and appropriate use of them. For the student with no interest in sociology, it is better to cut and paste sociology essays, showing aptitude in those modern abilities.

    Can you tell I’m bored?

  8. littlehouseofpenguins

    I know this is outdated, but Ivy’s response is hilarious! 🙂

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