One of my most vivid childhood memories is from the airplane flights to and from Israel as a nine-year-old boy. My parents had the wonderful idea to send me, age 12, my sister, age 10 and my older brother, age 14, by ourselves to Israel for a three week stay with my aunt and uncle in Maaleh Adumim. Arriving at the airport, I was excited for the long 15-hour overseas flight. At the young age of 12, my legs were not yet long enough to be painfully crushed as they are nowadays by the El Al seat in front of me. As we stepped onto the plane, my older brother, who we will refer to as William, said, “I have a great idea: since I am the oldest, I will sit in the window seat. Bridgette, since you are the youngest, you take the aisle. Danny, since you are the middle child, you get to sit in the middle. Furious, but convinced by his stellar logic, I obliged. After the three-week life-changing trip, we found ourselves once again, boarding the airplane, as we embarked on our way back home to the majestic Rocky Mountains. Standing there waiting to board, my brother once again spoke up: Since I am the oldest, I will take the aisle seat. Bridgette, since you are the youngest, you should take the window seat. And Danny, well, since you are the middle child, you take the middle seat.
And so began an adolescence of intense middle-child syndrome. As I grew up, and noticed more and more how unfortunate it is to be a middle child, I promised myself I would remain ultra-sensitive to the needs of my middle children when I would one day become a parent. However, it wasn’t until two days ago where I realized how insensitive I have been. As I merrily walked into my home one day after work, I saw my middle child who we will refer to as The Dude (I actually am blessed with two middle children, but the older one is our first girl, so it doesn’t count) sitting obediently at the table coloring very meticulously between the lines. My wife informed me that he had acted wonderfully on this particular day. I told him, “Dude, I can see that you are acting so nicely today! I am so proud of you!” Not two seconds after I heaped these praises upon him did my daughter, who we will refer to as The Princess chime in: “I also have acted perfectly today!!!” Usually, not wanting to neglect an opportunity to build up her self-esteem by complimenting her, I would begin praising her virtues, losing total focus on the poor Dude, the classic middle child. Today, however, feeling inspired, I told her, “Princess, you are great. But we aren’t talking about you now. We are talking about the Dude. And just because I am telling him how great he is acting, doesn’t mean you are not acting great, it just means that I want to focus on how nicely he is behaving now.” Getting visibly worked up, she persisted: “NO! I am also acting great! Really!” “This might be, Cupcake, but right now I need you to work on a new word you never heard of: It’s called humility. Humility means knowing how great you are, while leaving room for others to thrive as well. While you contemplate that idea with your sweet five year old brain I am going to play catch with the Dude.”
Not three seconds after those words left my mouth, and a gorgeous smile spread across the Dude’s entire face, my oldest son, who we will call Little Buddy, said, “Tatty, play catch with me! Let’s play monkey in the middle. The Dude’s in the middle."