It is a tough gig being a middle child.
Study after study over the years has shown that birth order affects us deeply, and it’s the middle children that feel it most.
But education consultant Katrin Schumann says they have secret powers. The author of The Secret Power of Middle Children points out that the qualities of a middle child can fit them for great things. No less than 52 per cent of American presidents, it seems, have been middle children. Than includes Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy. Tony Blair was a middle child. And Bill Gates. The list goes on: read Schumann’s fascnating article in the Daily Mail here.
I don’t think you have met the Middle Princess close up, have you?
My sister has three children. The middle one, Ella, looks like a Disney Princess, but in skirmishes with the toughest boys in the class she will generally win and walk away brushing her hands.
She has learnt a vital skill.
The researchers call it delayed gratification. She knows that disappointments pave the way to success. You may feel rubbish today, because you share a bedroom with your little brother and he has woken you up to play at 5am, or your sister is off at a grown -up sleep over about which you can only dream; but eventually, if you persevere, you will get what you desire.
Yesterday, I arrived at Big Al’s house, 8am sharp.I was to look after a gaggle of kids until school time. Al had his friend Harry there, and the eldest princess had her friend Orla.
But Ella had no friend.
And that was my saving. Because Ella is the most superb Personal Assistant you have ever come across. She has an encycolpaedic knowledge of (i) where everything is in the house, and (ii) Big Al’s morning routine.
Al is a creature of routine. He depends on it. Things can get very hairy if one does not stick to it.
I shut the door, took a deep breath and turned to the Middle Princess.
“Ella,” I said, “what do I do next?”
She took control efficiently and gestured to a sand timer by the television which had almost run out. “The timer’s almost finished, and then we put Al’s socks and shoes on,” she said.
Al and Harry sat on the sofa in glazed contentment, watching Monsters Versus Aliens. Ella and I administered socks (inside out so the seams don’t tickle) and shoes.
I had flown out without making Felix’s packed lunch. Ella flitted around the ktchen finding the correct materials to help me put together his dinner and get it in his bag.
“Now, Auntie Kate,” she advised sagely, “you have a bit of time. Ten minutes before we go, we put on the ten minute sand timer and warn Al. And we leave about two minutes before the bell goes so there’s not long to wait in the playground.”
I felt like a company director must do on the verge of an annual conference. Extremely grateful. And very, very dependent.
I followed Ella’s advice to the letter. When the noise level got rowdy as Al demonstrated one of the googlier monsters I asked her, Ella, is that a bit louder than usual? And she nodded wisely and said, “a bit, Auntie Kate,” and we went in and calmed it down.
A formidable talent, has The Middle Princess.
To quote Katrinn Schumann: “Middles can… be robustly independent, partly as a result of having to strive to find their own niche within the family structure. They are often infused with a freedom of spirit, a desire to break with conformity, which is why they can be so successful in the creative arts — just look at the careers of the great actor Richard Burton or the writer Ernest Hemingway.
“So there is no need for despondency or resentment among middle children. Their position, with its road to independence, has perhaps put them in the luckiest position of all.”