The Littlest PA: A Story Of A Middle Child


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.”


40 thoughts on “The Littlest PA: A Story Of A Middle Child

  1. What a great PA! But I hope she aspires to be the boss someday.

    It is not as simple as the survey suggests – after all, I assume all of the other presidents not mentioned were NOT middle children? And what about me? My mother’s middle child; my father’s first child?

    1. True, Tilly, things are not so simple. I’m no statistician.But 52 per cent of presidents is not bad going, when the other possibilities are that they could be eldest, or youngest, or only, or one of several!

  2. What a paragon!’
    I’ve never really thought about middle children, mainly for the reason that there aren’t any in the immediate family or that I know well. We do pairs. Their lives certainly must have special challenges.

  3. I am delighted to meet such a charming and able “middler.” I could use an assistant with Ella’s abilities. And again I’m so admiring of the way you move through so many facets of your day, Kate. I hope the weekend proves a little less stretched for time! ox

      1. Kate, how any of you with young families are doing this at all is beyond me! I sincerely mean that. I don’t know that any of us know what the word “balance” means any more. LOL!

  4. MTM would get along well with Ella. He is a middle child, too. Your sister is lucky to have her in the house, because she certainly has her hands full with Big Al. 🙂

  5. My favorite middle child was a neighbor girl, Jennifer’s age, the middle of three sister with five years between them. Michelle was the best at getting things done, parsing out duties, taking charge, much like Ella. One day, they were all playing at our house. I was cleaning out drawers with a “give-away” pile on the bed. The phone rang, in the days of real phones with chords and hanging on walls. After I finished speaking with whomever it was, I headed back, and there was Michelle, instructing the others, on which drawers to put which clothes from my pile to give away.

  6. Lovely story Kate. We looked it up at last.
    Very interesting that I was a middle child for 7 years, and then a next-to-eldest for the rest of my life! This has given us such food for thought.

  7. Ella’s skills are impressive….can see her managing a country 😀
    I was the middlest of five and felt – well invisible.for the most part. And I was the only one of my siblings that never conformed, to my mother’s exasperation 🙂

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