Friday, August 26, 2011

Middle Borns: You're all right in my book

As I was driving home from work on Wednesday, NPR’s Talk of the Nation was interviewing two women who had recently written a book about middle children. Turns out, middle children are pretty fantastic, as if that’s a newsflash to anyone.

Common traits of middle children include:

  • Good negotiators
  • Keen diplomatic skills
  • Peace makers
  • Open-minded
  • Independent
  • Flexible
  • Great marriage partners (nudge, nudge, wink wink)
  • Smell good
To give them their due credit, the book is called The Secret Power of Middle Children by Catherine Salmon and Katrin Schumann. Here’s some great insight from Salmon:

"If you grow up in a family and the firstborn tends to have a certain amount of authority that's given to them by the parents, and they're physically larger, they tend to get what they want or get their way through physical force or the authority parents have given them. [ahemmm, Amy (my oldest sister, or as we like to call her, second-mom)…] While for the last-born, as anyone who's had to deal with a lot of last-borns often knows [oh, we know], they tend to whine to the parents or get very upset if they don't get their way. And so that's their particular strategy for working out what needs to be worked out.

"For the middle child, neither of those strategies are available. So they often get very good at negotiating, figuring out what the other person wants and needs, and then managing to get them what they want and what the middle child themselves want at the same time. And, of course, one of the things that middle children often want is peace and calm and quiet and for everybody to get along. And so those traits then serve them well when they leave the family and go on to form their own families, and in the workplace."

Rings true for me.

As they do on Talk of the Nation, they asked listeners to call in with their input. They wanted to hear from middle children and wondered at what age did they start to value their place in the family.

If I would enter the 21st Century already and get myself a cell phone, I would have called in with the following genius insight:

I remember being out of college and still complaining to my brother-in-law that I didn’t get as much attention as some of the other siblings in my family. I think I was 23. I’m embarrassed to remember that conversation. I think that actually started my mind toward thinking more on the good things about myself and less on the negative.

I distinctly remember at age 29 having an awakening of my mind. It must have had something to do with the looming age 30, because a light went off in my head. I determined that everything in my life up to that moment was due in large part to my own choosing.

I didn’t have the pressures of living up to some unmet expectations, because I had none placed upon me. I was me, and I’d always been me, and I was okay with that. I knew that if I ran a race, won a talent competition, or became a prize-winning author it would be because it was something I wanted to do. If people were there to cheer me on, great. But if no one turned up, not one solitary single person in the whole-wide world of mankind (crickets chirping), I would live. And I would still love whatever it was I was doing.

Middle children get the bad rap of being picked on, uncreative losers with poor self-esteem. Actually, middle children due tend to have less self-esteem than oldest children or those footloose-and-fancy-free lastborns, but they don’t need to look to their bellybuttons anymore. Pick your heads up, middleborns! You are wonderful!

I am the middle of 10, but really, there are quite a few of us smooshed in the middle. According to researchers, anyone who isn’t the first born or the last born are the middle.

But my sister Amy hardly qualifies as a middle. Even though she is the second born, she stole that title away from Doug, the actual oldest born. I think I would put Doug in a class all by himself: identity theft stole me of my firstbornness.

I’ve been mulling the idea of my life choices over in my head lately. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I really like my job. I love it, in fact. I feel like I was born to be a technical writer. That doesn't sound exciting to you, does it? That's okay. What's important is that I love it.

I was moving some boxes up from the basement, and I found a newspaper clipping of when I was in high school and our school newspaper had won an award, so the local paper came out to interview the staff of the high school newspaper. In the article I mentioned that I wanted to be a journalist and that I loved computers.

How could I combine my two loves: writing and computers? Ding, ding, ding: technical writing! It wasn’t a career I necessarily set out to have, but now that I’m here, I fit like a Hand in Glove (the sun shines out of our behinds…a reference for those in the know to the best band of all time).

It was like my 17-year-old self was calling out to my 35-year-old self saying, “Hollah, girl! You know who we are, and you’re making us proud!” I wanted to kiss and hug my 17-year-old-self and tell her, “You are so amazing! And don't take yourself so seriously your freshman year at BYU! And don't live with Grandma; live in the dorms with all the other freshmen.”

You are amazing, middle children. But let’s not let it get to our heads. We know … we won’t. Firstborns and lastborns? They would let it get to their heads.


JL said...

Does everyone qualify as a middle child as long as they are not the first or the last child?

On a side note, I probably won't see your response if you give one, because I can't in good conscience continue reading your blog now that I know you listen to NPR.

Amo said...

I did not steal Doug's idenity -- it was forced upon me by his ineffectual first-borness. I can't help it if others give up their birthright!! Cindster, you are wonderful, even for a fifthster. You may love technical writing, but I love your creative writing. You should be a columnist as a side-job; I would read you over Kirby, Rolly and any of those others any day of the week. (And I'm not just saying that so you will stop picking on me on this blog.)

Morkthefied said...

Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy....

Yes, the researchers decided middle children are anyone other than the first and last. Seems odd when considering large families.

Amy, you know I just think you're the coolest person ever. Cool enough to even let me pick on you a touch. But not as much as I pick on Kathy. Kathy, Kathy, Kathy!

Morkthefied said...

I need to write an addendum to this, but I didn't explain my ah-ha moment as well as I could have. The truth is, having kids made me realize that my parents did a super fantastic job. And if there were any failings on their part, and I really don't think they did much wrong, but if they did, having kids increased my forgiveness for their mistakes by 10 fold.

Amo said...

They did do a great job -- even with you middlers.