Why Being A Middle Child Will Help Me Be a Better Parent
I had no idea how much growing up as a middle child would benefit me on my journey through parenthood. It's just the beginning for me, but I'm already using valuable lessons I learned in my childhood to raise my kids.
Aside from the five years before my younger brother was born, I've been a middle child my entire life. According to what I've read about "Middle Child Syndrome," this means that I probably feel neglected and resentful because of my birth order. While I don't necessarily agree with either of these conclusions, I can definitely relate to the notion that middle children tend to be more creative and vocal about having their needs met. Now that sounds a lot more like my childhood; always eager for opportunities to put myself in the spotlight. I was in the center of the siblings, why shouldn't I be in the center of attention?
To be honest, being the middle child really wasn't so bad for me at all. Not every middle child feels like Jan Brady, defined by his/her birth order, stuck between a perfect "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" and an adorable pig-tailed Cindy. Some of us have thrived and embraced being in the middle, finding our outlook on life to be more beneficial in adulthood. I mean, who doesn't love the middle? It's the cream in the Oreo, the meat in the sandwich. Aside from middle school, everything in the middle is always the best part! It's in the center where all of the substance comes from.
Being a middle child has definitely taught me some invaluable lessons and life perspectives that I think can only benefit me on my journey through parenthood. Here are five.
I know the need to empathize.
A lot of what I've learned so far in my early years of parenthood, is the importance of empathy and trying to relate to your kids. And experts say middle children do tend to be more empathetic. As a middle child, I have multiple perspectives on sibling relationships that my older and younger siblings never had. When you're the middle child, you have an older role model to learn from or look up to, and a younger prodigy to teach. You've been in both the driver's seat and the passenger seat of the sibling dynamic. No one has navigated both sides of the sibling road quite like the middle child. This vantage point can be very advantageous to any parent when it comes to empathizing with their kids.
I'll always encourage sharing.
The middle child is typically the best sharer as he/she has typically always had to share with at least one other sibling. I've been a parent of two for only nine months now, but I can confidently say that the word "sharing" comes up at least five times a day when I'm talking to my kids. When we had our daughter last year, one of the first things people said to me—after "Wow, that was fast" (our kids are 367 days a part)—was wait until they start fighting over the same toys. It can certainly be hard for the firstborn to adjust to not being the sheriff in town, though the adjustment has been easier on my son because he was so young when my daughter was born. But I still believe my being a middle child will help me develop the best practices to help my kids get along and always remind them of the importance of sharing in the years to come.
I'm adaptable and creative.
There's no one more adaptable and creative than a middle child, and research backs that up, too. That makes sense since middle children are always looking for unique and/or innovative ways to stand out. I've quickly learned another huge part of being a parent is being adaptable and creative. Especially these days, during the coronavirus pandemic when many of us parents are stuck at home with our kids, trying to come up with ways to both entertain and educate kids has become a second work from home job. Without a doubt, being creative and flexible are definitely helpful attributes for any parent to have.
I'm a smooth negotiator.
The middle child is also often the peacemaker of the siblings, typically the best negotiator of the kids. Let's be honest here, being a parent is all about keeping the peace in your household. Being in the middle of a lot of sibling rivalries and arguments, helps middle children become more diplomatic as well as persuasive. So when it comes to things like negotiating your kids bedtime, who gets to play with which toy first, and/or convincing them to eat their vegetables, being a savvy middle child will come in handy. Always keep the peace!
I know how valuable attention is.
If you are a middle child who did happen to feel neglected or ignored during your childhood, this is only more reason to be attentive and loving to all of your children as a parent. You can relate to the feeling of sometimes seeming like an outsider by default, and always look to make sure your kids always feel included and loved.
Bottom line: Parenting isn't easy, especially with the current climate we're living in, but the life experiences and perspectives I've had as a middle child make me more confident in the journey of parenting that lies ahead of me. And if for some reason I do fall behind on my duties, at least my parents won't notice, since the middle child is typically ignored anyway, right?
Tyler Gildin is a director, producer, and creative, but most importantly a dad of two kids under 2. He most recently directed and produced the documentary The Starfish that tells his grandfather's Holocaust story, and is now available on AppleTV, Prime Video, and several other streaming services. You can follow his almost daily updates on balancing being a creative and a dad on Twitter.