Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Middle Child Syndrome

This is Ashlynn.
Despite being the second of our four children, she is most definitely a middle child.

She's in the middle of a chaos sandwich: on the one side, you have Abby: the oldest, the violinist.  Abby's very talented, and there are times that the whole family gets turned upside down to accomodate a lesson, a rehearsal or a performance.  Abby is on stage a lot, and gets a lot of recognition and praise for what she does.

On the other side of the sandwich are the two boys.  First, you have Max, and all his Max-ness.  And while it's not his health issues that are currently monopolizing the spotlight, he is two years old.  He's amazingly cute and can throw a wicked tantrum, often within minutes of each other.  Then there's Ian,who just by virtue of being a baby, commands lot of attention, love and face time.

Lately, we've been super worried about Ashlynn feeling lost in the middle.

A few weeks ago, Abby and I played for my Grandma's funeral, and later that night, Abby had a violin recital.  As we left the recital, Ashlynn was crying.  "No one even cares about me. Everyone only cares about Abby and her stupid violin."

Sigh.  No matter how much you tell a seven year old that you love her just as much her sister, when she's spent the day watching her sister get praised from all sides, she'll never believe it.

As of late, the violin thing has become a real issue.  You see, we started Ashlynn on violin at the ripe old age of almost four, just like we did her sister.  It lasted less than 6 months.  Even at that young age, Ashlynn recognized that she couldn't do what Abby could do, and translated that to mean that she wasn't as loved.(Plus there was the small matter of 5 minutes of practicing for every 30 minutes of crying.)  It just wasn't worth continuing.

So we decided that Ash needed something of her own and enrolled her in gymnastics.  She loved it, but still felt slighted because she didn't have concerts, recitals, or endless practice time with Mom.  When we moved 2 1/2 years ago, we couldn't find a gymnastics program that measured up to the one we had been attending before. 

Ashlynn started begging for piano lessons about the same time.  I was reluctant for a lot of reasons- finding a piano teacher, enrolling in a new studio, practicing with a second child everyday.  It all sounded very intimidating.  But she kept begging.  And when the gymnastics didn't work out, I bit the bullet and found her a teacher.

She's doing quite well.  We're managing to practice most days, and either we're still in the Honeymoon phase, or she just really likes it.  But for some reason, it still isn't enough.  She still compares herself to her sister, and no amount of talking and pleading can convince her that she's amazing just because she's Ashlynn. I can tell she still feels like she's getting the short end of the stick sometimes, and she's probably right.

The thing is, Ashlynn is low maintenance.  She doesn't require trips to Salt Lake twice a week for violin, she doesn't need diaper changes or constant nursing, or to be watched like a hawk so she doesn't cover her hair and everything else in arm's reach in lotion.  Ashlynn is the most likely to play with her brothers, color the picture for Mom and Dad to make us smile or to do a job without asking.  She tries so hard to be sweet and kind and good. I was a middle child too, and remember feeling like I wasn't getting any attention because I wasn't getting into trouble.  I thought that I should get attention just for being good, but in my crazy and chaotic family, it was the squeaky wheels that got the grease, and I'm worried that sometimes her quiet goodness and sweetness are getting lost in the shuffle.

So, smart moms out there, how do you balance?  How do you nurture your "middle children?"  How do you make sure everyone gets equal time, love and affection without anyone getting slighted, even if they are easy?  (In other words, I'm still trying to figure out how to have four kids!  Help!)


  1. There aren't any easy answers, are there? I like to think I balance things but the truth is I really don't. In our family Ethan has really been the "middle"--he's second like Ashlynn and I've never felt like I make him understand how appreciated and loved he is. As the kids get older I can tell Ivy feels like the "middle" because she tells me how slighted she is. One thing I try to do is to do something special with/for the one I'm concerned about at the time. I'll take Ivy to Nathan's speech with me, let her sit in the front seat, and give her a treat and talk to her during Nathan's appointment. I'll write a note telling them what I appreciate about them. I sometimes grab one (kid) and take them with me to the store and then buy them a treat at the stand or if it's Eva maybe some beads to craft with, etc. Once I took them to the dollar store and gave them $2 and let them pick something they wanted without any input from me--complete waste of money yet invaluable time for me learning about them. In the summer I like to take them one at a time for lunch dates. Even Eva, who gets a fair amount of my attention sometimes feels overworked and benefits from a little extra attention. Sometimes I recognize the silent strong child of the week with a Saturday with no chores. Once in a while I'll sit and watch a movie with them or let one stay up and snuggle with me in front of the television (I tell them not to tell the others so it can be our secret--sometimes that doesn't really work). I think making four kids feel loved is like juggling plates--I try to think of special things for the child I'm concerned about the most and fit them into the life we're living.

  2. Don't worry about it. I was a middle child as well and spent my life feeling picked on and blaming my mother for not having more pictures of me and paying more attention to my constant rambling. Then I grew up and had my own children. And now I call my mom on a daily basis to apologize. And someday Ashlyn will grow up, have a middle child herself and call you on daily basis to apologize!:) It all works out in the end.

  3. I was a middle child to a fault. :) Sounds like she's determined to compare doesn't it? The only thing I can think is what we've done with our boys and our "dates" because of Spencer. He's my "middle" boy and really, I was concerned about his as well. The only solution was to take him and have time with JUST him.

    I am far from seasoned and no expert. So I'm clueless, but keep doing what you're doing. :) She knows you love her.

  4. Having a middle child and being a middle child myself, I have the "inside scoop" if you will on what may help.

    First off, you must give yourself some props for trying the best you can to do what you can as a Mommy. Seriously, I only have three kids....I can't even imagine how much more difficult having four kids could be.

    Second, I've found that one way I help my middle child, in fact all of my kids, feel loved is to do something with them that is just uniquely me and that child alone. My middle child, who is a spunky five year old named Josie, loves all things girly. So we often to mommy daughter dates together. We'll go look at girl clothes, or paint each others nails, or watch a Disney princess movie together......just her and me time kinda stuff.


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