Stuck in the Middle with Her: On Being a Middle Child

Written by Emily

This summer, Sylvie, my 2 year old, is in a wedding. A few summers ago, Noah was a ring bearer.

I have three children.

Yesterday, while I was out to dinner with my girls, a stranger came to our table, remarked at how beautiful Sylvie was with her red hair, and then left.

I have two daughters.

Rewind. Repeat. Rewind. Repeat.

Again. And again. And again.

I want to hold my middle child in the air like a scene from The Lion King and shout, “Do you see this girl? This girl! Do you SEE her? Do you see the way her eyes sparkle like sunshine on wheat? Let her smile take hold of your insides until you feel queasy with love, and try to just walk away then. Listen to her. Her wit and insight are treasures you’ll miss if you walk away so soon. This girl! Do you even SEE her?”


I want to say that and a million other things because she is my girl…too. But Chloe handles it. She swallows it or something.

Thankfully, there are people who know, people who’ve felt the atmosphere shift a bit when Chloe’s near, people who’ve waited one breath longer to catch her remarks like kids catching fireflies in summer–awestruck by their light.


My cousin sidled up to Chloe on a day there had been a lot of “oooos” and “ahhhs” about this summer’s wedding. With their shoulders touching, she whispered to my girl, “Will you be in my wedding? Will you be my flower girl when the time comes? We can go dress shopping together.” The date for this event isn’t even set yet, but my cousin wanted Chloe to feel special. It was important to her that Chloe knew there would be a time for her.

I didn’t see Chloe’s reaction, but I’m sure she smiled. And I’m sure her occasional shyness made her back curl, and she wanted to fold into herself for a minute to catch her breath. But below the surface something bigger was brewing.

Chloe’s joy is like lava after a volcano’s initial eruption, it oozes out of her for days, for weeks. And when I least expect it, it covers us.

Days later she spontaneously announced in the car, “Did you know I’m going to be a flower girl?!” She beamed.

“I heard!”

The back seat was glowing, but it was just Chlo.

When she got out of the car to go to school, there was a bit more air beneath her feet because: flower girl, dress shopping, a big girl noticed her–just her.

Because of birth order alone, Chloe will follow Noah’s footsteps to school, but she won’t try to fill his shoes. She’ll move through the same halls, but the pace will be uniquely hers.

I want people to notice her, not because she shares her big brother’s last name, not because they caught sight of her little sister’s hair shining like a red sun, but because they felt the atmosphere shift a bit when Chloe was near, because they waited one breath longer to catch her remarks like kids catching fireflies in summer–awestruck by their light.

There is a special place in my heart for those people. It’s right in the middle.



For a lovely tribute to her middle child, check out Liesl Testwuide’s To My Middle Chile, You’re the Good Stuff.




Categories: Emily, Family

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17 replies

  1. I’m third in the middle of six. I often humorously describe my birth order as the bottom of the top. I followed two sisters who were both straight A students. The eldest was/is considered the family beauty and artist (I’m also an artist but no one was aware of this until much later in life), the second was/is brilliant (PhD bearer now) and in her youth was an awe-inpsiring flirt 😉
    And don’t get me started on the rest of my accomplished sibs – all I can say is now at age 50, I find wonderful humor in a lot of what transpired in our youth.
    To this day, we still gather at family holidays and find much musing about the old days…
    You are a wonderful parent and your children will find places to balance, because you provide the opportunities for them…

    • Your family sounds amazing! I’d love to be a fly on the wall at a family gathering (but not in a creepy way 😉 I don’t want to rush where we are right now, but I do look forward to family gatherings when they’re older, reminiscing. I, of course, will slobber all over myself when we reminisce. I do that already! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and for having confidence in my parenting. I appreciate your thoughtful comments!

  2. love EVERYTHING about her…beautiful, Em!

  3. Yeah, I’m the oldest child (and first grandchild), and that is very evident when my sister and I are together! But, she was the baby of the family for 6 years… then we adopted Lee and yes, I can totally see how that might have been a bummer to her! LOL

  4. I’ve noticed the attention Sylvie gets and I wonder what goes on inside Chloe when this happens, but I also see the interaction with Chloe of the people who are closest to her; it is always so positive and loving. It is their (your) attentions that mean the most and whose she will remember. You are doing a few great job with her! And we know that she is a very strong, brilliant, creative, loving little girl!!

  5. I was the first born in my family, followed by a beautiful red headed sister, who has accomplished WAY more than I ever will, and I’m SO proud of her – BUT we two were not compared very much (or at least I was oblivious to it, if we were) and we love each other dearly! Actually, she was more shy than I was, until she realized what gifts she had! The ones who suffered were our 2 brothers who came after us, because we both LOVED school and worked hard! (>:)

    Chloe is a precious treasure with her gorgeous eyes & pretty brown hair and sweet smile! She will overcome her shyness, like my sister, especially with her parents/grandparents/relatives/etc. who encourage & love her for the special beauty SHE has! How thoughtful & insightful of your cousin to realize that she needed to know someone would prefer HER in their wedding!! It always means more that someone “other than your parents” thinks you are special – cause we parents ALWAYS think our children are extra-special!!

  6. Beautiful post! Thanks for the link! I’ll be back to read more!

  7. I was red-haired and a middle child and in every dang wedding on the planet. It gets old. Believe me. Seriously old. Your daughter will be fine. She will have her own strengths because of her place: secure, surrounded and loved. And she has you, helping her find the fireflies. 🙂

    • Thank you, Brenda. She is such a treasure. They all are, and as their mom, I want everyone to see that. Certainly not everyone will, but the ones who really know them will love them, too. I know it! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. We are invisible sometimes as middle children, but can really step up to the plate and shine when the time is right. Chloe will have amazing moments in the spotlight.

  9. Absolutely gorgeous post. Your beautiful words moved me to tears. My favorite line: “Chloe’s joy is like lava after a volcano’s initial eruption, it oozes out of her for days, for weeks. And when I least expect it, it covers us.” Thank you for being a wonderful mother to your three precious kids.

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