Kid in the Middle or Second Fiddle?
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Does it make a difference where you come in your family? Bossy eldest, easygoing middle or outgoing youngest? I spoke to PJ Coogan on Cork’s 96FM’s Opinion Line about this parenting topic because, for years, I’ve been bombarded by the wail “It’s not fair!” by our man in the middle.
In families where the kids are close in age, the first is allegedly the over-achiever garnering greater privileges, the baby is spoilt and gets away with murder while the middle or second child can feel neglected and left out. Is this true?
My kids are close in age. My daughter is three 3 years older than our second, who was followed 15 months later by his younger brother. Now a stroppy 14 year-old, I asked our middle guy what he thought of this theory. Do his siblings get preferential treatment? “Definitely! You’re always nagging me to get off the PlayStation while she’s on Facebook and he’s playing sport!” “That’s a different issue,” I retort, in my defence.
I’ve tried to be fair – fussed over and bought toys for the older siblings, for example, (presents from the baby) when Junior, our final arrival was born. “But Mom, remember how you turfed him out of his room and gave the baby his cot?” daughter reminded me. “The bigger brother got the bigger bed – it wasn’t all bad!” “He must have been jealous,” continued daughter, “When you had Junior on your knee, he crawled over and bit the baby’s toe!” Fortunately the youngest’s foot is still intact. No lasting scars or damage done.
But it was tough dealing with three small children. Like most mothers in those early years, I had to battle sleepless nights, get on with it and hope for the best. Over time, my middle guy learnt the art of manipulation with moans like “They got a bouncy castle for their First Communions and I didn’t!” resulting in an all-out effort for his Confirmation. They fight over who gets what job to do, be it washing up or painting walls – “It’s HIS turn. You’re being sexist making ME do the housework,” rails daughter or “You’re letting HER off ‘cos she’s eldest/the girl/your favourite!” I can’t win.
And yet, is it possible that our middle child has outgrown this sense of supposed neglect? We’ve long got over the terrible twos but now, when it comes to household tasks, TV time or homework versus computer gaming, my terrible three gang up on me! So the kid in the middle feels marginalised? Yeah, right! In this case, it’s Mom who’s second fiddle!
Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy! ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2014
Maeve O’Keeffe is a Cartoonist, Illustrator and Journalist in Cork, Ireland