I’ve talked before about my second son being totally different in temperament to my first. He’s louder, brasher, confrontational and can be extremely aggressive. I’ve dealt with difficult children before as a teacher but that’s totally different. Other people’s children don’t tug at your heart strings. Sure the children I taught knew how to press my buttons but I could always temper my reactions. Once you take a deep breath that gives you some thinking time most problems don’t seem so bad. When my child is difficult the wave of emotion that engulfs me can be very intense as is the fluctuation of thought which leads to the eventual action, good or bad. As I have 3 sons, my second is my ‘middle child’ and this is apparently a bad thing that sets you apart from others in a negative way and can have major repercussions throughout your life.
Great, so that’s another thing as a parent to feel rubbish about. (If I were so inclined)
If you look on the internet (as I did) you’ll see that there is a ‘middle child’ syndrome –is there a syndrome for everything these days?? – And the symptoms are;
- They have a sense of not belonging
- Can feel insecure
- Can lack drive and look for direction in the elder child
- Can be a loner……….
Oh my life what have I done???
I’ve thought about this for a while now and whilst observing his behaviour I’ve noticed a few things that have made me think a bit. I agree he’s in a sort of childhood ‘no man’s land’ in that he’s not the baby of the family but he’s not the eldest. He desperately wants to be like his elder brother, not in terms of wanting to be him but do what he does. He wants to climb the same trees, have the same friends over and play with the same toys (Lego!) but he can’t physically get up the same trees, he doesn’t have the same friends as his brother and he doesn’t have the same fine motor skills to be able to build the Lego models he wants to. Imagine that when you were younger, all you wanted to do was be older but a middle child gets his older self (in terms of capabilities) dangled in front of him like a carrot but is told, ‘You can’t do that!’ I think I’d be pretty peeved too.
He also fights against me more than his father. I don’t take this personally as it’s me who’s been his main caregiver since he was born. He’s gone from total dependency to slight independence and although he wants this there are times when he needs a cuddle but I think this causes conflict with the ‘I AM A BIG BOY MUMMY!!’ that’s going on inside him. He wants to test me so he runs off to see what I’ll do and if it’s the same as I did yesterday but when he falls over he still wants his baby blanket, to suck his thumb and cuddle with me. I think he’s angry at me because he’s not as independent of me as he’d like so I get shouted at, cross faces pulled and the occasional punch is thrown.
Now I understand him a little more we are getting on better. I have decided that I needed to have some Henny and mummy time. (Henny is his baby name he’s still very happy to be called) This is when he knows it’s just me and him and we do what he would like to do –currently swimming. We have a drink before and chat about everything and nothing and then we go and play in the pool. If he wants to sit and stare at his toes (as he did today) then that’s what we do. If he wants to paddle then off we go. I don’t push him to do anything. I sit and listen to what he says and we are learning to have a new phase of our relationship where I am not just a caregiver attending to his needs. He wants to move on from that and we have to do this together. We are learning to talk about anything and not just ‘Have you got your coat? Where are your shoes? The functional language we can get trapped into. We now have a running joke where he says ‘I’m growing mummy!!’ and I say ‘Stop growing!! You’re getting too big!!’ and he laughs and shows me how big he’s getting. I can be in the kitchen and he’s in another room and I hear a very quiet ‘I’m growing!’ and I know that my lovely, gorgeous Henny is still there under that rufty, tufty ball of GRRRRRR that he can sometimes be.
I let him make more decisions; he has to learn how to make them sometime so why not sooner rather than later? If he won’t wear his coat, I don’t wrestle him to the floor as I could so easily fall into, I say ‘Okay, that’s your choice; you’ll tell me if you’re getting cold’. And do you know what? He does. Calmly and with no dramatics. He chooses what we do for his ‘Mummy/Henny’ time even if it’s not something I’d really like to do. He’s feeling more empowered and his behaviour is settling. Whilst I can’t say he’s perfect I can see improvements. And for the first time he’s saying ‘I love you Mummy’ spontaneously when he feels like saying it rather than as a parroted answer to echo me.
So whilst I have a middle child I won’t be labelling him as suffering from ‘middle child’ syndrome. He’s my son and he’s trying to find his place in our family and is learning how to relate to the rest of the world and I would say -isn’t this all very normal and nothing to get worried about? I need to take time out to be with him, even if that’s just going to the park or a shopping trip just him and me. I need to listen to him and to observe his behaviour as a 3 year old can show you so far more of his feelings in a silent huff than he has the vocabulary to say.
But for now I’m very content to still have the cuddles and the occasional ‘I love you’ and know that he doesn’t really mean the anger and aggression. I’m if I give him the time and space he needs to slowly make choices and decisions for himself I think we’ll come through the other side.
…and then I’ll so it all again for my third son.