I read an article a few weeks ago about the damaging effects of being a middle child. It was peppered with statistics on how many middle children battle depression, how many choose to sever ties with their parents and siblings, all kinds of dreadful pieces of information.
I sank into the article and felt a pit in my stomach.
My sweet girl, my middle-born, might be at risk for these things?!
My sensitive mama heart broke and I sent text messages to two middle children I know well, my friend Steffani and my cousin Max. Both of them essentially said the same thing, that they don’t recall feeling particularly left out or unloved as children and that my sweet girl probably won’t either.
They used much better verbage than that and my feelings were almost instantly relieved.
One thing Steffani suggested, just to really make sure none of my children grow up feeling less important, was solo dates. I loved the idea so we’ve already been employing it. The baby mostly just hangs out right now, though we do try to enjoy a little one-on-one time with her as well. We trade off on special dates with the older two each weekend. One weekend he takes A and I take B, then the next weekend I take A and he takes B. Simple.
There was a father-son dirt bike date while Baby C slept and I took Baby B out to the backyard for bubbles, basketball, and rides around the backyard in their little blue truck. She giggled and smiled and shrieked. She asked me to lift her up to shoot the ball into the hoop, asked me to read to her, asked for more bubbles… and I obliged. The girls were both in bed when the guys got home so I got to see, with no distractions, just how brightly our boy’s eyes shined while he told me about their evening.
Then there was a daddy-daughter date to play with the trains at a nearby bookstore. It again worked out that Baby C was napping when they left, so Baby A and I took that time to hang out in the kitchen together and bake up garlic breadsticks to eat all week long. Every time we had salad and breadsticks, we were both reminded of our special time spent baking together in the kitchen. Daddy and daughter came home with a bright light shining behind both of their big smiles.
I took A out for a mommy-son swim date and he melted my heart with his tenderness and his excitement. He asked me to hold him tight, told me he loves me like crazy, and laughed hysterically while I swam us away from pretend sharks and whales.
I took B out to explore the pet store and she cackled maniacally about getting to wear her brother’s hat. She was enamored by the fish and fell in love with the bunnies. She pet an orange cat and watched the mice with rapt attention. She was fascinated by the birds and shy about the bearded dragon, but she just kept going back to those bunnies.
There was the daddy-daughter park date where she refused to do anything but swing and swing. There was the mother-son date scooping sand into castles and splashing around in the lake.
I would have missed a lot of that if I had had all three children at once. You don’t get to sit and watch one child’s facial expressions when you’re chasing his or her sibling and changing another’s diaper. You don’t often get to slow down and savor the look of magic and wonder on their faces when you are just trying to keep track of them and keep up. Things are different when there’s only one. Slower. Calmer. It’s easier to focus, to be present.
I would not trade this family for anything. I love to watch them be siblings. I love the way they say each other’s names, the way they laugh together, the way they look holding hands on a hiking trail. I love the way Baby C smiles so brightly at her big brother and sister, the way they rush to her when she’s awake from a nap.
Adding solo dates to the equation just adds one more dimension to these young people we are blessed enough to parent. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.