Aug. 3, 2014 – I sat at the kitchen table at 11 a.m. on my birthday, waiting for my mom and my 17 and 10-year-old sisters to get home from the airport. They had been in Cape Cod for about a week. Without me.
We had scheduled the trip before I made the cheer squad and it ended up overlapping with cheer camp on July 30 and 31. Of course, I pretended that I was okay with them going without me and laughed my way through it by cropping myself into all the photos they sent me. But there I sat, alone and bitter.
Happy birthday to me.
Getting left out isn’t anything new for me. I’ve been a middle child since I was 3-years-old. Not just a middle child, but a middle child with two obnoxious, trophy-winning sisters. I’m used to taking pictures of whatever they’re doing, letting them pick where we go to dinner and fading into the background. I had to become independent early on.
I used to be the family baby, but then a newborn with a curly head of hair and a permanently running nose took my place. Bridget was a baby who took over any room she walked into. Her crazy brown hair and pointy teeth commanded attention.
She was a born entertainer, putting underwear on her head for laughs and doing cartwheels wherever she went. It didn’t matter where we were, she always acted like she owned the place. With her around, it was easy for my family to overlook a shy kid like me.
Besides that, I had to live up to Aidan. She was the definition of a social butterfly. I could barely have a conversation with someone. She had friends wherever we went and it felt like everyone knew who she was. I was surprised if someone recognized me. The worst part was that people expected me to be more like Aidan, but really, we were more like opposites.
There was also the issue of sports. With athletic parents, we were signed up for soccer, tennis and swimming early on. It turned out Aidan was a great tennis player. Since both of our parents were played tennis, Aidan had an extra connection with them that I didn’t. She started going to more and more practices, matches and tournaments. Pretty soon she was leaving for practice right after school. She came home late, and went out of town on the weekends. Bridget and I barely got to see her.
When Bridget started sports, we found out that she could do pretty much anything that she tried. She did soccer, gymnastics, basketball, diving and swimming — and that’s only naming a few. Bridget grew up fast. So fast that it seemed like I was in her shadow sometimes. I was living between a tennis prodigy and a human firecracker.
I was terrible at every sport I tried, partly because I was uncoordinated and partly because I was afraid of soccer balls, tennis racquets and sharks hiding in the deep end of the swimming pool. I took up dance, but I still felt like the odd one out. My dad was the one who coached all the elementary school sports, but I never wanted to go to practice. My mom loved tennis, but I could never play without embarrassing myself. Sometimes it felt like the sports that my parents played with Bridget and Aidan brought them closer together, while I sat on the sidelines.
And, as an obligation to middle children, I get left out every once in a while. Like when I wake up the morning of my 15th birthday and my parents are gone with Aidan getting her tonsils out. Or when they all play tennis together. Or even when they they go to Cape Cod without me.
But all in all, there are advantages to being the middle child. I’m not my parent’s guinea pig like Aidan, testing the waters for me in high school and practically everything else. I also won’t be left all alone after my siblings leave for college like Bridget. She’s going to have to go through all four years of high school without any siblings at home.
And through all the struggling for attention, I’ve become the person I am today. Sure, I get overlooked occasionally, but I’ve grown up to be independent and determined. I make my own plans and do my own work. I don’t feel the need for validation from other people.
Being a middle child isn’t ideal, but if I wasn’t a middle child, I’d be a completely different person.