Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Middle-child syndrome

Yesterday I looked up from my Starbucks coffee and high-brow discussion with my friends (why WON’T our husbands wear sweaters!) to observe a startling dynamic occurring in my four- year-old’s game with her friends (it was a controlled environment; she was never in any danger from my neglect). In their game of “Dogs and Owners”, the kids who were the second child in their family were, without exception, the “dogs” and the first- and third-born were the “owners”. This epiphany – I don’t have many insights so forgive the hyperbole - triggered flashbacks to my own middle-child experience.

My sister is two years older than me and until adulthood really, was the dominant personality. If she said I didn’t have to nap and could come out through the bedroom window and play with her, then that’s what I did. If she said the pretty-smelling soap in the wicker bowl at the furniture store was free and mine to take -she didn’t want any, thank you - then I took a bar (and later had to return the stolen goods with a VERY reluctant apology). If she said it was fine to run across a six-lane highway to hit up the candy store and then access an island in the middle of a river to eat our hard-earned bounty, you guessed it, that’s what we did.

Our family lumped us together as “the girls” – I have a younger brother too, but that’s a whole other pathology/story. We shared a room. Whatever gift she got in a beautiful shade of blue, her favorite color, I also got in a rather natty (NOT) shade of brown or green. My favorite color is red. On Christmas morning she would always wake up first, unwrap her stocking gifts and then wake me to inform me that I would also have a chocolate letter, a tangerine, a Now That’s What I Call Music Cassette and a six-pack of new undies … only in brown/green.

Of course this translated into playdates too. Somehow, whether I had a friend over or she did, I always assumed the role of the subservient. I was the backup singer to her Debbie Boone (“He’s a Rebel”), Sabrina to her Chris and her friend’s Kelly, Supergirl to her Wonderwoman and I was the brown –haired A from ABBA, never “the one with golden hair”.

At 13 I outgrew her, physically. I was taller, more confident and no longer second fiddle or so I thought. Alas, my height did not save me but rather recast me in the role of ‘the man’. I became Donny to her Marie, Buck Rogers to her Wilma Dearing, Dean to her Torville. I was Mr. Roark, Captain Stubing, both Hardy boys, Han Solo.

I realize now that our sibling dynamic was stereotypical and, honestly, could have been a lot worse. I think back on those roles now with much amusement and fondness. My sister is funny, creative and brilliantly cunning and like a dog and her owner, we are best friends. I hope my kids grow up to feel the same way.

No comments:

Post a Comment