This is Ashlynn.
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!)