If I was attending to our infant daughter, she would laugh extremely loud and talk baby gibberish to make sure she was included in the conversation. Then, her subsequent conversations would be barely discernible because she would continue to talk in baby talk. If I asked her to do something that she has been doing on her own for months now, she would suddenly need help to complete the task (like dressing in the mornings or making her bed). I knew pretty quickly that she was crying for attention and spent some extra time with hugs and kisses, but she still seemed to be reaching. I decided I’d do some research on what she may be experiencing and came back with all kinds of hits for “Middle Child Syndrome”, which has some pretty scary stats by the way.
1. Reassure her. No doubt about it, the middle child can feel lost in the sauce. In our family, our 11-year-old first born is pretty self-sufficient, but still needs guidance. Sometimes that has Mommy staying up late with him to lend assistance on an upcoming school project. It also can mean driving place to place for choir rehearsals and sports practices. In those times, Honeybee is sometimes in the background playing with her stuffed animal friends or trying to interject herself in the mix. Make sure you tell your child that you love her and that even though she isn’t the baby or the oldest, she is still a very important and loved member of the family. Emphasize her importance in the family dynamic. With Honeybee, not only is she a big sister, but she is the only other little girl. Her little sister is going to look up to her and want to follow in her footsteps. That’s pretty cool. Give your middle child LOTS of hugs and kisses and let her know that no one can take her place and no one ever will.
2. Spend some time together—just the two of you. My son and I have always had Mommy-Son nights ever since he was very young. He is a fan of bowling and Burger King. So, we tend to escape for a couple of hours for bowling followed by Whoppers sans onions. Other times, we’ll catch a movie and then go for a walk around one of the shopping centers just talking. It’s a wonderful way to connect. Looking back, it’s easy to see how the little one could feel left out, so we’re implementing a consistent Mommy-Daughter time. Do the same. Make sure you cater the time to your child. If she likes flipping and gymnastics, then head to a night of open gym at the local gymnastics center. If she is a lover of stories, head over to the public library and hit up their Kid Zone or better yet, go during storytelling time at the local bookstore. For your older middle children, give them some ground rules (i.e. budget and time constraints) and go with the flow. It’s about them. (Incidentally, I’m not a huge fan of my son’s food selection for our evenings out, but I go along with it because it is about the child, not mommy).
3. Show them they are special too. Okay, a complete mom failure on my part. We have Christmas ornaments for all of our children. Each one has special ornaments just for them. Our middle child gets super excited because every Christmas I take a picture of each child putting their respective ornament on the tree. It’s a mini tradition. She loves it. Our children also all have pictures. Except I forgot to place a picture of our middle and youngest child in the windows. When our daughter came down the steps, she would see a bunch of pictures of Mommy and Daddy by ourselves and a picture of her big brother when he was younger. There were also pictures of other family members, but not one of her or her little sister for that matter. Yep, I completely deserve an “L” on that one. To rectify that, we took a beautiful frame given to me by my late mother in love and placed a picture of our Honeybee inside. It was more than appropriate since she and my Honeybee had the closest relationship.
4. Pay attention. We all give off signals when we are overwhelmed whether we are crankier than usual, clingier, or more stand offish. Pay attention to your middle child and recognize the signals that some alone time or private conversations are needed. When I came home today, I could tell that Honeybee was super excited to have me home and anxious for Mommy time since she kept asking to help prepare dinner or if she could get me anything. So, after dinner, Honeybee and I went through our nighttime routine and then settled into her bed for some additional snuggle and story time. She picked out her story per usual and after reading, I took some extra time to just talk to her. I asked her questions, gave extra hugs and kisses, and told her that she was my special bee and that it didn’t matter how many people were in the house or how many in our family she would always be my Honeybee whom I love very much. She beamed.
Of course, that beaming smile made all the difference in the world. Here’s hoping your middle lovie will be beaming too.