Me in the Middle

My family of origin.

My family of origin.

I’ve just returned from a visit with my two sisters in Tennessee and have been reflecting on the fact that except for the four years before my younger sister was born, I’ve always been the one in the middle. Not Malcolm in the middle or even monkey in the middle, but me in the middle!

My parents spaced us roughly four years apart so they wouldn’t have more than one child in college at a time. When we were growing up, that four-year spread seemed huge, but at the ages we are now it’s almost non-existent. My two sisters are like bookends on my life. I can fall over in either direction and I’ll have a sister to catch me and prop me up.

And I truly am the middle in so many ways: the middle size, the middle temperament, the middle energy level. Together we were known in our hometown of Knoxville, TN, as “The Parker Girls,” and I’m as proud to be referred to as one of those three girls as I ever was.

"The Parker Girls" in '83 and '03.

“The Parker Girls” in ’83 and ’03.

Studies on middle children state that they tend to be good negotiators—especially when it comes to getting what they want. “Middle-borns are the most willing to wheel and deal,” said birth order expert Dr. Frank Sulloway in an article by Natalie Lorenzi on website. They are agreeable, diplomatic, and compromising, and they handle disappointment well. They have realistic expectations, are the least likely to be spoiled, and they tend to be the most independent.

First-borns are commonly characterized as perfectionists with take charge personalities. They are often confident over-achievers, since they had the most time to emulate the adult behaviors of their parents. Youngest children, however, are characterized as more carefree and easy-going, fun-loving, affectionate and sociable. They like to make people laugh.

Three SistersKnowing my sisters and myself as I do, I have to say parts of those descriptions fit. But in truth each of us has displayed all these characteristics from time to time. We’ve always resisted any urge to label or stereotype one another, and never ordered the T-shirts with funny sayings about being the oldest, the middle one, or the baby of the family. We are simply sisters, with a family history only the three of us share. We can quote our Mom or Daddy and we all “get it” without explanation. We shared a home with a barn and horses, clothes, make-up, and family vacations in the ’59 Chevy station wagon. We survived driving mishaps, boyfriends, and marriages together. We always did and always will want the best for one another.

How grateful I am to be able to say along with Sister Sledge, “We are family. I’ve got all my sisters with me!” Whether near or far, we are always close at heart. And from my perspective, being in the middle is the perfect spot to be. Love you, sisters!


  1. Elizabeth H. Van Liere says:

    Enjoyed the blog again, Nancy, but disagree with the definition for the eldest. I am the oldest of three, but I am not and never have been, a take-charge, confident person. Oh, well. It’s too late to worry about that now that I’ve reached old age. So I’ll just carry on and look forward to whatever changes are in store. Love from me to you, Nancy.

  2. Jan Keller says:

    Love you Nancy … just like a sister! <3

  3. Deborah B Turner says:

    I loved reading your article and seeing the wonderful pictures of you and your family. I love the Facebook post that says sisters are different flowers from the same garden. I guess sisters have many different relationships, but I think sister love is always there. You and your sisters obviously have a very special relationship. What a wonderful thing that is!

  4. Love your insights!! I, too, am a middle child, and some of those stereotypes were true with us growing up!
    I have seen lots of changes after adulthood. We lost the youngest and the oldest is having problems and living in
    assisted living but we are very close.
    I always liked being the middle, I was not the first to leave or the last to leave!!

  5. Kay Walker says:

    Such a precious discription of this sweet family. I love each of you! Loving meeting up with your beautiful travels and great sharing of you love for family and life. Blessings my friend!

  6. Peggy Ellis says:

    Nancy, I’m the middle of three sisters, with six brothers spread throughout the total of 12 years between the oldest brother and the youngest sister. (Nine in 12 years, poor Mom!) I have one remaining sibling, my sister who is five years older, and we are in the process of scheduling our Christmas get-together. No matter which day that occurs, we’ll chatter until we’re hoarse while my husband and her son shake their heads at our giggles. Merry Christmas!

  7. Nancy J Tollefson says:

    Hey Nancy B! Love reading your stuff! I’m oldest of 5, with all brothers! I’d say the stereo-type fits us pretty well. And how I wish we had the love for one another that you and your sisters have! Just one too many life trauma’s for that to exist. But as one young, smart, Presbyterian pastor said, “Jesus died to heal all our wounds” All of them. Hope to see you soon!! Love, Nancy T.

  8. Well said, you cute, Parker Girl. I love that your love for your sisters just increases as you successfully middle your way through life.

  9. Ed Jeffries says:

    I always thought you were the best, kindest and most talened of all of us from first grade through college! Still seems that way! Everyone that I know that knows you feels pretty much the same way! Maybe it was because you were SUCH A GOOD NEGOTIATOR! I am the oldest of three and certainly am the most driven! Thanks for always being such a good friend to me! Merry Christmas to you and your family!❤️

    • I feel the same way about you, Eddie. We definitely shared a lot of life together, and I’ve always been grateful for your support. Thanks for taking time to comment!

  10. Nancy,
    I am one of the fortunate that knows all of the “Parker Girls” although I don’t know your older sister well. I agree that some of the descriptions fit you all, but there are some that fit each of you. The Parker girls that I know are fun-loving, exceptionally smart, loyal to your friends, and beautiful. I loved reading this, and hope that on the next pass through Tennessee, we can get together. Have a Blessed Holiday season.

    • Thanks so much, Joe. Thought of you guys when I was in Knoxville but this was a short 4-day trip and each sister claimed two days!! 🙂 Next time for sure. Or ease your way West!

  11. Ronnie Luttrell says:

    What a great description of Sisterhood as it should be. Your description of that relationship exactly describes my Mother and her two sisters. To this day in Knoxville they are still known by their maiden name as “The Paschal Sisters”, even though they are all widows. Your story triggered great memories for me as I still think of Knoxville fondly although I have not lived there for almost 40 years. Hope to visit there next week. Merry Christmas!

    • Enjoy your visit, Ronnie. We must have left about the same time. Still a great place to be from, and to visit! Thanks for sharing about your mom and her sisters, too. How wonderful they still have one another.

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