My Middle Child

My Middle Child

She’s the child with fewer photographs, fewer remembered milestones, more hand-me-downs. The child I feel like I’ve shortchanged ever since those brutal early months when I could barely get out of bed and bond with her. She doesn’t even have a cool domain name like her older sister.

Sometimes it stinks being the middle child.

She seems to be taking it all in stride, though, my second-born with her mellow personality. But I don’t think everything is lost on her.

It might explain why she calls herself, “Daddy’s Girl,” or why she pushes so hard for independence, or why she doesn’t like my chocolate chip cookies.

Maybe that’s why she wants to go to public school next year, too.

She tells me she just wants to try it, to “make new friends,” and I don’t want to argue. I’m not part of the Homeschool Mafia that believes no one can ever leave the family business.

Actually, we started homeschooling a few years ago because of – you guessed it – her older sister. Lilla just followed in her footsteps. She’s played soccer, taken piano lessons, and worn clothes she didn’t even like for the same reason.

I admit it’s the path of least resistance for me, to treat my daughters the same, to hand down clothes, to shuttle them in the same direction. But I can’t ignore, for convenience sake, the huge differences between them anymore.

“Get ready to learn a lot about butts and private parts,” her older sister warned her the other day.

And I think she obviously doesn’t remember her stint in public school. Her friends were sweet, her teachers kind, and the curriculum squeaky clean. She just has a unique learning style, one that lends itself perfectly to homeschooling.

But, at the risk of sounding redundant, her sister is a completely different story.

My Middle Child

I thought of this today as I was picking up sticks in the backyard from a thunderstorm that kicked up strong winds and littered our yard with debris. I had a bundle of dead branches in my arms when my daughters yelled for me to come quickly.

“Some baby birds fell out of their nests,” they panicked.

I cautioned them to keep their distance, to let nature take its course, or at least let their mother come to the rescue, but within minutes, our ferocious cat, Bud, kidnapped one of the chicks and took off toward the front yard with him in his mouth.

The girls ran after him in hysterics.

With threats of cat food sanctions and incessant vacuum cleaning, I coaxed Bud to drop the bird unharmed. After he did, the girls and I hovered over the baby bird and wondered what we should do next.

“I suppose we should somehow get him back to his brother, closer to his nest,” I suggested.

My daughters agreed and after fetching some gardening gloves, I crouched down in the mulch beside the trembling chick. The girls waited patiently for me to gain enough confidence to pick him up. After several minutes, Lilla asked, “Want me to do it?”

I looked at her, surprised, and asked, “Do you think you can?”

“Sure,” she said, like no big whoop, Mom, and with that, she slipped on my gloves, scooped up the bird, and slowly walked him to the backyard where she reunited him with his brother.

I know I could manipulate this story into one about siblings sticking together, about staying close to each other and their nests in order to survive. And quite frankly, given my past parenting decisions, that’s very tempting.

But today I gained a different perspective. I realized that if my middle child is going to survive, like those fledglings, she needs to step away from her nest. And she’ll never learn to fly if I don’t let her spread her wings.

So: I’m going to buy her some new clothes. I’m going to let her take those horseback riding lessons she’s been begging me for. I’m going to bake her some Snickerdoodles instead.

And come late August, I will watch her board a big yellow bus and attend public school.

She nicknamed that baby bird Survivor today, and I think, Lord willing, that’s exactly what she’s going to be, too.

My Middle Child


  1. Ant Rosie says:

    Almost made it through today without crying over some little thing (menopause being the good time that it is). Then I had to go to FB and read your blog. Meg, you continue to fill my heart (and eyes) with the beauty of your words and the love you have for your children. I remember the priest at my wedding talking about agape love, the unconditional love Jesus has for us. You embody that as a mom and I’m so proud of the wonderful woman you’ve become. What lucky children you have!

  2. Seriously, I’m crying so hard I’d just like to say “Ditto” to what AR said. Love you guys.

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