*** GIVEAWAY TIME ***
Although This Is Us is on hiatus until fall, there was one episode from season two that has really stayed with me since I first watched it in the comfort of my living rooms with tears flowing down my face. “The Fifth Wheel” addresses Kevin’s stint in rehab and during a visit from his family, some old feelings are dredged up when Kevin admits he always felt like second fiddle to his brother and sister. Kevin tells his family, “I guess, my entire childhood, I always felt like I came in second to you two with Mom and Dad. You know, like I was a fifth wheel of the family.”
That spoke right to my inner middle child and feelings of inadequacy, and of being forgotten. Call it classic “middle child syndrome” or whatever stereotype you want to throw at it, but it is very real and has lasting ramifications years after childhood.
Many of us middles are not like Jan Brady, Laura Ingalls, or Maggie Simpson. We don’t always act out, seem desperate for attention or suffer from feelings of not being loved. In my case, I never felt like my parents didn’t love me or that I was neglected. For me, it was more about the ease of the transition from being the baby of my family for eight years to the arrival of my little brother. It was difficult for me to handle the shift of focus from my older sister and me to my little brother. I love my parents immensely, but this was not a transition they handled well.
I often felt like my needs took a backseat to my older sister’s needs as the firstborn and everything that comes with that. She was the first to enter high school, the first to have a boyfriend, the first to drive, and the first to test boundaries. While I was grateful for that in many ways since she paved the road for me, in many ways I resented her because I tried to compensate for any headaches she may have caused my parents as a teenager. I was very straight-laced, did well in school, and barely spoke of boys to my parents. I worked extra hard to be “the good one” and in some ways I regret trying to fill this role in my family.
Then there was my baby brother, the one who changed my whole world with his arrival. I hated him for the better part of his first year of life. He was the one who stole my parents’ attention from me. It wasn’t until he started walking that I began to have any kind of appreciation for him. I started to realize it was never really him I was mad at, but rather my parents for “replacing” me with a new baby.
I know I sound like a spoiled brat and here I am at 32 -years-old with two children of my own complaining about the fact that my parents wanted to expand their family way back when. Yet, hearing Kevin Pearson discuss how he felt growing up, I felt a kinship with the character in that moment. I firmly believe every family that has more than two children in it has that one sibling who felt forgotten about many times. They feel like everything they did to please their parents was for nothing, and at times still feel unloved or like the black sheep.
I’ve discussed my feelings with my mother over the years. How being the middle child really helped to form the adult I’ve become. I’m extremely independent, severely defensive, approval-seeking, and I’m very hard on those in my inner circle if they let me down. I know I’m like this because of being born in the middle. I tried to please my parents and get their attention at every twist and turn, fought with my older sister because I had no other place to channel my anger (and she was mean), and I’m hard on those around me because I’m always afraid of losing their love.
My husband has done a good job of taming many of these qualities with his unconditional love and support, but they still linger.
My mom has opened up to me about that period in her life, about having postpartum depression after the birth of my brother—it made her feel withdrawn, overwhelmed and stretched too thin. Being a mom myself now, who has also suffered from PPD, I can now see why her attention might have been elsewhere in those early years with three kids. As far as my dad, I can just imagine the pressure that was on his shoulders being the breadwinner during the day, watching us kids at night while my mom went to her job and helping his wife through one of the worst forms of depression a human can withstand. It must’ve been hard for them. I get that now.
Yet, that didn’t stop me from crying during that episode of This Is Us. I was instantly an eight-year-old girl again who just wanted a little extra time with her dad at night while they watched a television show or an outing out with just her and her mom to buy some new clothes. I will always have a special place in my heart for my fellow middle children, even if they were part of “The Big Three” or not.
This post originally appeared on Her View From Home
Everyday when my son gets off of the school bus, I open his backpack to see if there are any notes from his teacher or anything else inside that should be taken out. Most often there are only left over parts from his lunch or toys that he had taken with him on the bus that morning. But sometimes, there are pieces of artwork that his teacher sent home that were either done that day or taken down after its stint on the classroom walls.
I love getting his artwork.
It’s always something different. Whether it is a dinosaur, a firetruck, or a painting of a pumpkin – it all makes no difference to me. Out of his backpack and straight to the fridge almost every piece goes! So much of his artwork dons our refrigerator that I often times have to send stuff to both grandmas houses so they can fill theirs as well. They love it just the same.
When we visit my parents’ house and I see my son’s artwork on their fridge, I’m reminded of the days when my own artwork hung on the “Look what I did at school today” magnets that my mom still owns. I remember rushing through the door after school and excitedly pulling out a new painting to hang on the fridge. I’d pick out the best magnets before my sister claimed them for her own masterpieces. I’d hang it up and be so proud of the work that I had done and be so happy to have my art front and center in the heart of our house.
It is funny how it’s the little things that take us back in time to our own childhoods – a certain smell, something someone says in passing, or perhaps a song. For me, my son’s artwork reminds me of a time when the biggest problem I had was claiming the good magnets before my sister got to them.
Other times, she and I would sit at the dining room table and draw pictures for our dad. You see, my dad was and still is a health guru. He has a workout room in my parents’ basement and still uses it to this day. The room once housed the bedroom of the teenage girl of the family that built our house before my parents bought it. So my dad decided rather than painting over the strip of flowered wallpaper that went around the room, that he’d hang his kids’ artwork on the walls instead. So, part of our family’s tradition was coloring pictures for dad’s workout room and pieces that had already shined on the main stage of the fridge got a second life downstairs on the walls too.
As we colored each drawing for my dad, I’d take big pride in going downstairs when he was in there working out and knocking on the room of the door while he blasted country music and lifted weights. He’d slowly open the door and I’d hand him my newest creation. He was always grateful and complimentary of whatever we drew and not all of us were artists (me in particular). I’d take tremendous pride as he pulled out two thumbtacks from atop his stereo system and asked me where we should hang it. Once it was up, we’d stand back and look at it. I’d look around the room at the drawings we’d given him over the years – my sister’s “School Safety” winning drawing of a girl crossing the street with her dog, a ripped out page from a dinosaur coloring book my brother colored during his “Jurassic Park” phase, and the traditional shadow silhouette of my profile I’d drawn in the 1st grade.
They were all there. Proudly on display. Mementos from his three children.
Most of the artwork would stay up for years. Long after I stopped doing drawings for the wall, I’d use the workout room for its intended purpose and I’d look around the room and be reminded of days gone by. Times when the world was simpler, easier and when the highlight of my day was knocking on the door of the room I now stood in as an adult. A young girl, excited by the thought of giving her dad something she’d made him for his favorite space.
When I became a mom I decided this was something I’d carry on with my own kids. I don’t have a workout room (the exercise gene skipped me), but the kitchen is the heart of our home now. So, when my son makes me a drawing or writes his name on a scrap piece of paper, it goes on the fridge. Anything he makes is special to me.
Like my dad, if I can make my child’s day by simply hanging up something he made just for me, well then consider it done! I will gladly continue this tradition, and luckily my son didn’t inherit my non-existent artistic abilities. Not that it would matter if he did, his art would still hang proudly on the fridge.
Latest on Her View From Home
“I can’t tell you how many articles, memes, group chats and face-to-face conversations I’ve seen and/or had with other moms who seem to have some kind of unofficial club of moms who don’t have the time, energy, or motivation to clean their homes and if you are not in it then you are not cool.
Well, I’m one of those unicorns that actually cleans her house every day, manages to fold my laundry by the time my head hits my pillow most nights and makes my kids pick up their own toys when they are done playing with them.
I don’t say these things to brag or compare my home’s level of organization and cleanliness to yours. I’m saying this because I’m sick of people looking at moms that keep their homes clean and orderly like we have it all together and think we are better than those of you that don’t.”
Read the rest here
Another new one up at Her View From Home
“Sometimes I feel like the mom version of the Terminator. Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic character, when I look at my outside world I don’t see the stats of my enemies, I just see stuff that needs to be done:
Visual: one-year-old baby
Running on 95% energy
Caution: diaper full of poop
Visual: basket full of dirty laundry
Running at 99% capacity
Caution: may smell like old gym socks
My mind never stops. The list of things that need to get done, places my children need to be, and appointments yet to be made never does either after all. I’m in a constant state of GO—if I stop to have a quick bite to eat while the baby is down for his nap that’s about it. I think I feel this way because in some ways our modern society has made me and maybe you feel this way, too?”
Read the rest here
I watched you today, sweet boy.
You were fighting your nap on the baby monitor. You were rolling around and rocking back and forth on your hands and knees to practice getting ready to crawl any day now. Your blanket was crumpled up in the corner of your bed. Your stuffed lamb was out of sight, probably on the bedroom floor after you had chucked him out of the crib. You’ve definitely got a future baseball pitcher’s arm.
As I watched you, I was laying on my bed down the hall. Your daddy and I were both tired from the night before so we thought we’d catch a nap at the same time as you and your brother. You big brother was already asleep in his room. But, you had other plans.
You started to cry then.
I looked over at your daddy, who was already drifting off to sleep. As daddy tends to know, he knew I was watching him, looking for an answer to an unasked question. He opened his big brown eyes and said, “Just go get him and bring him in here.”
Bring him in here?
I found the idea peculiar because in our four years of parenting thus far, we had yet to sleep with a child in our bed. Your brother was/is a good sleeper. You didn’t follow in his footsteps in that respect.
As always, your daddy knew just what to say. So, I stumbled down the hall to get you. When I opened the door you smiled your big toothless smile and sat up in your crib. I love how every time I pull you out of it, you make me feel like a prince retrieving the princess from the witch’s tower. Cribs aren’t really that bad are they?
I brought you into our room and handed you to your daddy who greeted you with open arms. I plopped down on my side of the bed as he set you in between us. You looked around the room as if to study it for the first time. You’d been in here plenty of times while helping me fold laundry or resting on the bed with me and our cat after I’d taken you out of the bath tub and dried you off. However, this was different.
I could see it on your beautiful little face. Mom and dad here at the same time. What in the world was going on?
Oh but you didn’t stay put for very long! The novelty of looking back and forth between me and your dad got old real quick, and you were rolling around in the nest we’d created for you with our two bodies resting on each side of the bed while facing you.
You’d touch your dad’s beard and when that got boring you’d roll back to me and try to pull at the design on my t-shirt. All over and in every direction you went. Countless times we had to keep you from getting too close to the edge of the bed. Our little wiggle worm.
Finally, we both tried tucking you into us with your back against our chests to try and get you to sleep. This did not work.
You started to fuss. So, I grabbed your bottle off of my dresser and held it for you. With my other hand, I caressed your hairline where it meets your face. You looked into my eyes as I did this, brown eyes meeting blue. We repeated this process until ever so slowly I saw your eyes starting to get heavy. Your dad looked at me and gently closed his own eyes.
You were both soon sleeping.
Not me though. I watched you as your breathing started to get heavy. I held my breath as you spit out the bottle and rolled towards your dad. He opened his eyes briefly to rest his hand across your midsection. You were still asleep.
You both slept. As your dad started to gently snore I shifted my gaze towards you because if you had any part of me in your DNA, this would wake you as it often does me at night. I love your daddy, but he snores – a lot. You did wake slightly. So, I was there to run my finger through your hair again, and out you went again.
The two of you slept for an hour. I rested on the bed, being as still as humanly possible as not to wake either of you. I should have slept. I was tired from the night before after all. But, I opted to watch you instead, my sweet, second born son – with perfect skin and eyelashes for days. You had frogged your legs and one of your little chubby hands was laced through the afghan blanket we had carted with us from your room. The other rested comfortably on our king sized bed.
Your daddy was fast asleep by now as well. You were both facing me so I found it almost impossible not to look back and forth at you both. The similarities in your features still amazes, as you are his little twin. I could almost see into the future as to what you may look like someday. I wonder if your hair will turn from the strawberry blonde color it is now to your daddy’s dark brown? Will you grow a beard like him? Will your hands be calloused and worn like the ones in which he now rests his head on? Will they bear the scars and reminders of a working man’s hands? I’m sure no matter what you do someday you will resemble your daddy in some way.
As the hour passed and I braved sitting up to look at the alarm next to the bed, I knew you’d both soon wake. Your daddy opened his eyes first. He and I smiled at each other and mouthed words in silence. I whispered for him not to move as not to wake you and he quietly asked me the time. We stared at you, our sleeping angel, and smiled back at one another. This was all new to us, a precious moment in time. Your brother could never hold still long enough to fall asleep in bed with us.
You started to stir, and as your eyes popped open I was the first thing you saw. I told you that it was ok, knowing you were wondering where you were. Then, your signature gummy smile sprawled out across your beautiful face and you tried to sit up. You looked back at your dad, and he kissed your cheek. You were yet again surprised by the fact that you were in bed with the two of us – mom and dad there just for you.
Before long, we were back downstairs getting ready for dinner. Your big brother had woken up shortly after and when I went to get him out of his room I gave him a big hug, knowing that soon you would be his size. He was no longer a baby of course, but just lying there on our bed with you for that hour of nap time, reminded me at just how fleeting time really is in the childhoods of my children. It’ll be over before I know it. But, that afternoon nap was so special to us all. I hope we can do it again sometime, my sweet boy.
* Originally written in fall 2017
Here is my first original piece on Perfection Pending by Meredith Ethington…
“Do you remember when you were a child and you would do something or say something to your mom and she’d give you a one sentence reply that either really irritated you or wasn’t the response you were looking for? Mom phrases if you will.
Most of them were old adages passed down from her grandma, to your grandma, to your mom. Sayings that over time slipped off of the tongues of moms everywhere, even if they made no sense they somehow became logical with each passing generation. To the displeasure of kids everywhere these responses would stay in our memories and spoken to our own children now that we are the adults in the situation.”
Read the rest here