Monday, March 7, 2011

Julia in the Middle

I have one word for the belief that a person's birth order dictates their personality traits - hooey. How small minded to think that we are, by virtue of where we fall in our families, forever tied to a certain set of behaviors. The idea is terribly disheartening.


But, almost without exception, people that I know with a "middle child" agree - middle children are different. Lacking the luster of a first born, or the perpetual cuteness of the baby, middle children always have something to prove. My sweet Julia is a middle child, and embodies all those negative traits associated with the position - loud, stubborn, bossy, physically aggressive, quick tempered and quick tongued. Especially loud. My God, the girl is the LOUDEST CHILD ON EARTH. There is no such thing as an inside voice. She has exactly two speeds - wide open and asleep. She knows every button to push, and does so with glee. She ignores. Her moods are mercurial and those around her fall in and out of favor frequently. She once ordered my mother in law out of her room with the pointed finger and the command "Not YOU! I want my mom. You are really gross."

I have had strangers come up to me in public places and whisper "Is she a middle child?" and nod knowingly when I answer in the affirmative. In talking to other mothers of middles, I will say something like "She is completely crazy." and their eyes will get wide - "Exactly!" Middles present an interesting challenge to parents whose first children were easy. Middles seem to come out kicking and screaming and, despite our efforts to parent them in exactly the same way as our eldest child, continue on a path that tests our will and makes us question our methods. I am firmly, completely, wholeheartedly against corporal punishment. But I will admit to having to put myself in time out on numerous occasions before I did something I know I would regret. I will also admit to popping her butt out of anger and frustration and desperation. It has happened exactly once, made me feel horrible, and had little effect on her - except to make her turn to me and yell with indignation - "We do not hit in this house! We do not hit people we love!" Ouch.

She's in a tough spot. When your sister is Mary Poppins (practically perfect in every way), and your little brother is a cherub that just oozes sweetness, getting attention becomes your number one goal in life. You do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. As she gets older, she is slowly learning that positive behavior gets your positive attention, and negative behavior gets you ignored. Most of the time.

I'm defensive on the subject of Julia. I excuse much of her behavior (and rightly so. Mostly. I think.) to being tired, hungry, or needing attention. I will say "oh she makes me crazy" and follow it in the same breath with "but she's so much fun." And she is. She is a great companion to take most anywhere. She is exceptionally well behaved in public. She is very smart, quick witted, and kind to her friends. She is the most affectionate of my children, free with hugs and kisses and cuddles. She is, frankly, one of the most stunningly beautiful children I've ever seen. She worships Katie and is an awesome big sister to Henry (when she's not lying on top of him or rubbing her feet in his face). She is determined. She is a hard worker. She is the most self assured 4 year old you'll ever meet.

Julia has humbled me. She has made me realize that I don't know nearly as much as I think, and every day presents an opportunity for me to learn something new. She's also taught me patience in measure that I didn't know I was capable of. Yesterday, she was overtired and had a meltdown. I went and laid down with her in bed and rubbed her head until she started to drift off to sleep. I was staring at her amazing little face - cheeks still flushed with anger, eyes heavy, when she looked up at me, sighed deeply, and said "Mommy, I love you."

Oh, Julia. I love you, too. Fiercely, I do. Julia in the middle, right where you're supposed to be.


  1. Hi, Kelly. Sean's friend Paul here. Got here via Facebook. Enjoyed this post. I'm a middle child. I think my mom would agree w/ everything you wrote. Great blog!

  2. Thanks, Paul! Come back and visit again, and bring your mom!

  3. I could have written this about my Caitlin. <3 She's a nutjob, but she's MY nutjob.

  4. Oh gawd, your last sentence just made me spurt tears. My Julia is almost 4, also in the middle and BOY do I understand!

  5. You could have so turned this into a typical "I love my kid but... feel sorry for me" post, but you didn't. I love the way you write and Julia sounds like an amazing little girl :) I love all the personality she has, even for a 4 year old.