So here we are… parents of 3 kids… And you already know what this is going to be about…. the Middle Child.
I was born the first of 5 girls. My parents had 3 kids back to back to back. They then waited a little while and had #4, and another 7 years to have #5 (and yes, we truly go by numbers in my family). Since we were a trio for a little while, my first sister felt that she was the middle child, slightly disadvantaged and I know she still remembers her childhood that way today.
I knew growing up that, if I had 3 children, there would be no Middle Child. All would be treated the same and receive equal attention. I had never bought into my sister’s stories…. or were they stories?
Our Three Kids
Having 4 younger sisters, I knew what little girls were like and I always pictured myself as a mother of girls.
Kid 1 – Ava
We were blessed with a girl as our first born. Ava came out full force. She was a colicky baby who cried for 3 months straight. She started sleeping through the night very recently as she reached the age of 5.5.
She is full of energy, a born actress and amazing singer. She keeps us on our tip toes to say the least and seems to always have an opinion to share.
She is also her own little self. Doesn’t care what others think. She’ll talk to everyone and has been spending more of her days upside down, cartwheeling through life recently!
Kid 3 – Elin
On the other side of the sandwich comes Elin. Our last born, she is a little ball of fire. She came out the calmest of the 3 but spent the next 2 years watching everything her siblings did and added her own grain of salt. We now have a crazy kiddo!
This is a recent example – a week after her third birthday, we took the floaters off and she knew how to swim… so far so good. 5 days later, we go to the pool and she was flipping front- and backwards… not normal…
She’s a little crazy kid, adorable, but likes the attention. If one of her older siblings is speaking, she has to talk louder. The most convenient time for her to request a hug is when we hug her brother or sister. And the list goes on. She’s the baby and requires a LOT of attention
Kid 2 – Mark
Mark is definitely our Middle Child. I never thought I’d ever say this, but he truly is the Middle Child. And I don’t know how that happened… I feel terrible for it and want to change things but it seems like we are in a spiral where, he just gets less attention. He was sooooo much easier than Ava when he was born. He slept through the night around the age of 2, he’s been smiling non stop since he was a few weeks old, never was a picky eater, always went to bed without a fight, he still naps 2 hours a day if we let him… He has been very easy in many ways!
Mark is an amazing kid – bright and smart, very physical and extremely curious. His curiosity, while a great asset for the future, tends to get him into more trouble than good things today. He explores and tries to understand how things work, breaking them in the process. He’ll disobey rules as he tests the physics of our world and his overbearing imagination takes over. He rarely means to break and disobey – it just kind of happens as he gets absorbed and puts his hands on things… And so, he gets in trouble a lot more often than his sisters do. It is a part of frustration on my side – having to repeat ground rules over and over again. And a part of tested patience which comes at a shortage with three young kids running around.
This is his Oops-face… He did something bad and realized it too late. But he is so dang cute…
I sometimes wonder why he gets less attention than his sisters. Did he request less as a toddler? Do we spend so much time trying to get him to listen that there is no time for positive reinforcement? Does he receive the same amount of attention, but most of it is negative? Those are questions we are still trying to answer. In the meantime, Mark is definitely getting more frustrated and we both consciously started to set time to be 1-on-1 with him to make him feel special. Those are some of the things we recently put in place:
- Christian puts him to bed at night and they read the book of his choice, just the 2 of them, before bed. That’s high quality 1:1 time where he gets to pick what he wants to read, while I take care of the girls’ bed time routine.
- Several times a day, I have an uninterrupted conversation with him. Usually at school pick up and as I kiss him good night, I ask about his day. In those moments, it is just him and I. There is no one around jumping in to tell me how their day went. I want to focus on him only!
- We emphasize his positive behaviors with recognition. It only takes a high five or a quick “thank you.” If we go about an hour and he is playing nicely, we make sure to recognize him. That brings the biggest smile on his face and makes his day!
- We just started taking him out to play sports on his own. When Ava is there, she is all show, faster and taller than he is and he gets frustrated. When Elin is there, she steals the attention and wants to be helped as soon as Mark gets helped. So we have decided to take him to the tennis court, for example, on his own. That is the only way for him to truly receive undistracted attention.
- We are testing this one this weekend: Mark has been having a hard time adapting to his summer camp and we are feeling the frustration build up. We thought Christian could take him for a boys’ staycation. This is something we have never done before but I think they will both enjoy themselves so much!! I can’t wait to hear how their weekend goes. They will check into a local hotel on Saturday afternoon for one night, and Mark is looking forward to “going to the pool, watching some fireworks, and going on walks” with his Dad. I think it will be a wonderful opportunity for bonding and he will surely feel special!
He is the most loving child. His heart is golden. You will often hear him compliment someone on their hair or style, and he totally means it. He is full of love and I know he will do well. We are working on ways to get him out of the Middle Child cliché. I want him to get the same quality attention as his sisters. Being aware of the situation is our first step to correcting it and we have already seen good progress. We will be very focused on balancing our attentions this summer and I know his behavior will improve as he gets less frustrated and stops looking for reactions from us. We are on our way and all learning together what this crazy thing called Parenting truly means. He’s an awesome child and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
I will be sure to report on the guys’ weekend and all of the good things coming out of it!
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