A quick post as I wake up this Family Day weekend (for non-Canadian readers: yes, we make wonderful holidays up, too) to the joy-inducing sight of my second-born independently making us malformed but delicious pancakes…
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the experience of being a middle child as of late. My son Jackson is the middle of three in my house and he’s often caught in sibling limbo. He’s not the baby, he’s not the leader. His little sister wants him to be silly and infantile, his big sister wants him to grow up. My wife and I consciously and subconsciously give our eldest the privileges that come alongside the responsibilities of being born first, while my youngest gets to strut her stuff with every built-in excuse that is granted to the “pet” of the house. I wonder how much of an identity crisis this provides for Mr. Middle?
As parents, we’ve been trying to be much more aware of the extent to which we unintentionally support fixed roles and identities in the household. For example, we noticed that the unintentional consequence of our first-born becoming an accomplished baker for her age might be that there’s really no reason for the others to learn how to make food for themselves if that’s Big Sis’ “thing”. That’s why we realized we needed to explicitly interrupt that bias. To let the kids know that we expect and will support all of them to learn the joys, misery, and mundanity of making food from real ingredients to healthily sustain oneself and others. This meant that we needed the “expert” in the house to occasionally let go of her “thing”, take a step back, and let the novice make all the mistakes that she may have forgotten were essential in her own development.
We all need to let other people have our “things” sometimes.
Also published on Medium.