Millenials and Zennials, Don’t Let the Middle Child Go Extinct

This past week, I read a couple of articles, most notably the original on the topic from The Cut, that said that the middle child in America is an endangered species. That’s right, most American families want two children as an ideal. The Cut states that while in the 1970s, 40% of mothers had four children, 25% had three, 24% two, and 11% one child.

Today, those numbers are basically reversed, with two-thirds of moms having just two or one kids at home.

If this trend continues, the middle child will soon be a rarity.

Now, when it comes to how many children one has, I think it’s different strokes for different folks. Many women long to have just one, and cannot, or long to have more, and cannot. Some women, like myself, don’t love pregnancy or physically have a very hard time getting through it. After my first pregnancy saw my blood pressure spike to near-deadly levels and my second pregnancy saw me puking twenty-four hours a day for about twenty weeks, all while working and caring for a two-year-old, I was DONE. No third pregnancy, and no middle child for me.

JUST KIDDING! Because my husband and I, responsible thirty-two year olds, went away on a tenth anniversary trip and came back with a baby on board. Yes, we know how that happens. Oops. So, you see, having a third child, and therefore a middle child, was one of the greatest surprises of my life. And, it has been a joy.

My family was one of those typical 1970s families with a middle child, and I’m so glad I have one, too.

(Um, can we just take a second to talk about how CUTE I was, I mean….)

In one of those weird, “I’m exactly like my mother” scenarios that oddly plays out when one reaches adulthood, my family life has closely paralleled the family my parents built. My mom and dad had their first child, son, on February 28th, I had mine, a son, on February 27th. They had their next child not quite three years later in October, I had my next child not quite three years later in November. There are three years and eleven months separating my older brother and myself (I am the third, he the middle), and there are four years and one months separating my own middle child from my own youngest. My kids are exactly the same grades apart in school as my brothers were. If only I’d had my girl last, as my parents did, instead of as my middle child, our families would be essentially the same. FREAKY!

middle child

Since my last child was clearly NOT planned, I promise you I didn’t try to duplicate my family, despite the fact that I had a pretty great childhood.

And yet, I am so thankful it turned out this way. I am thankful I have a middle child.

My middle child definitely does suffer some of the “waaah, I’m in the middle, I’m forgotten” that pop culture calls “middle child syndrome,” but her saving grace is that she is the ONLY girl in our family, so she’s making out a-ok. The truth is, it’s my oldest child who might feel the most forgotten in our home; his entire life, he has been “easy” and “typical” while both his younger siblings had significant developmental delays in their preschool years that required me giving them lots and lots and lots and lots of my time and attention. My youngest has, at seven, just finally “therapied out” and is now a-ok on the typical path. Recently I expressed to my oldest my fear that one day he would look back on the last few years and think that I didn’t spend enough time and attention on him, and he looked at me like I was crazy. “What? Why would I think that?” he shook his head.

Phew. No “oldest child syndrome” here either.

But back to the middle child stuff.

Young parents of today, I ask you not to count the middle child out. Two middle children have played a significant role in my life. One, my older brother, Andy,  he of the striped shirt in the photo above, and two, my darling daughter Sophie. So, allow me to extol the virtues of these middle children to you. Let me make a case for the middle child.

My brother Andy, the middle child in the family of my birth, was a royal pain in my rear end until I was fourteen and he was eighteen, and then, we suddenly decided we liked each other. Since then, our relationship has been great. But even before that, I always knew he had my back. One day when I was about eight or so, I fell out of a tree in a neighbor’s yard and got the wind knocked out of me pretty badly; he carried me home. No one on the school bus could give me crap, or he’d tell them to stop. Now as adults, he is truly one of my best friends, and has been a great role model to me in parenting (believe it or not, even though he tortured me as a child. I’m not bitter, I swear.)

Everybody needs and Andy in my family. (Side note, my oldest bro Charles is amazeballs awesome as well. And also, only tortured me a LITTLE, so he gets mad credit for that.)

My daughter Sophie, the middle child in the family I birthed (LOL) is such a joy in our home. She came out of the womb with horns coming out of her head, but I prayed the Lord would use her strong will for good and He HAS, in many ways. At about age eight she became 100% delightful, and we had a good run with that, but at 11.5 years old, let’s just say the tween hormones are KICKING IN. I know we will make it through though. One thing Sophie has taught me is kindness to ALL; she is truly one of the sweetest, kindest beings I have ever met. My husband and I shake our heads as to where it came from, because neither of us are that nice. She is almost too good for us in that regard. She is a helper to me anytime I need her younger brother to be occupied and she gives 110% to anything she is trying to succeed at. I am so proud of her at times that I could BURST. I can’t wait to see how God continues to use my girl for good!

Everybody needs a Sophie in the family.

Being brought up in a family with a middle child shaped who I am, and having a middle child is shaping who I am becoming.

So young people on the brink of having a family…I hope you’ve heard my case for the middle child. They aren’t all Jan Bradys, doing anything to get attention. They’re an amazing species, I promise. Let’s save the middle child! You can do it, and I’ll babysit when you need a break. 🙂

Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson
Jenny is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor.

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