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.
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 Parents.com 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.
Knowing 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!