Last week my post was about firsts, lasts and middles…since then, we have been blessed by our first grandson’s safe arrival into the world. He is my first grandson…but not my first grandbaby- that position belongs to Miss Aubrey Blayce… and I hope Mr. Hudson Brent Macey is not my last grandbaby.
Many years ago, I wrote a children’s book about “first, last and somewhere in the middle…” While the story is based upon my own three children… the idea was formed when I heard a story about another middle child in our family who, the day his older brother went to school for the first time and he found his mom teary eyed, asked his mom if she wished that she only had his older brother and his baby sister for kids… He was only 3 years old and was struggling with his position in the family…and it made me wonder how kids really do deal with the whole birth order… I am the oldest in our family, and I always felt like I was in charge of my younger brother and sister…obviously I was not…however, now as an adult, I still feel like it is my job to “take care” of them. (and basically everyone else in my life as well)
At the time when I heard this story, I was only the mother of two… but a couple of years later, I had our third child and I began to watch how my children each reacted to their positions in the family. I know there are a bazillion books written about birth order and the effects of it…and I admit, I have never read a single one of them…(although I have heard all about most of the theories over the years) I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that after watching my children grow up, and looking at the differences in me and my siblings and my parents and their siblings as well as just looking around at the families God has placed in my life- I can’t see that any of them follow a certain “hard rule trend” that is dependent on their birthing order. I do believe that God creates each of us with complete uniqueness… and I believe that not only the birthing order, but also the family and the surrounding situations help to mold that uniqueness into the person God has created us to be…
That being said, I also believe that children do struggle to figure out their position in the pecking order of the family… I have watched my own three children as they competed for something that was already theirs from birth…mine and their daddy’s unconditional love and acceptance- both of which has absolutely nothing to do with what they have or have not done or accomplished; both of which has nothing to do with whether they are the first, the last or somewhere in the middle; both of which we had no control over- we never had a choice nor a decision to make that granted them our love and acceptance… it was an uncontrollable force that began as soon as they were conceived… a force that is unexplainable, and yet unchangeable…
I want to share my children’s story with you…and I hope you enjoy it. I have to say that I am not the middle child, and I am not the youngest in my family…I am the oldest- and as the oldest, I know that we have a tendency to feel lost sometimes as well…I hope that as you read this story the message I am trying to convey- unconditional love and acceptance, no matter what- is conveyed…
Let me know what you think!
Somewhere in the Middle
By Marleea Crittenden, 1996
Mary Catherine was stuck between two boys, not the oldest and not the youngest, just somewhere in the middle. And sometimes she felt a little bit lost.
The position of oldest belonged to her brother, Jonathan. He was eight years old and in second grade. Mary Catherine was six years old and in first grade.
Mary Catherine Cook was not the youngest in her family either. That position belonged to her little brother, Baby Peter Thomas. Everyone still called him Baby Peter, even though he was 2 years old and learning to speak in complete sentences.
Mary Catherine loved doing things with her Mommy. But there were many times when Mary Catherine would come up with something fun for her and Mommy to do together, and Mommy would say, “I am sorry Miss Mary, you will have to wait until I finish helping Jonathan with his homework.”
Or sometimes she would say, “Not right now, Mary Catherine, I promised Jonathan that I would play baseball with him.”
Then there were other times when Mommy would also say, “I will do that with you as soon as I finish reading Baby Peter a story.” Or, “Mary Catherine, I am trying to bathe Peter Thomas, so I can not read with you right now. But I will in a little while.”
This would make Mary Catherine sad. And sometimes it made Mary Catherine mad at her brothers.
One afternoon she came running into the house looking for Mommy. Mary Catherine was hoping to bake cookies, but when she found Mommy, she was reading Peter Thomas a book. Mary Catherine interrupted the story, “Can we make cookies Mommy?”
“Hey, we weading!” Peter Thomas said.
“Mary Catherine, we are reading a story right now. I just don’t have enough time to help you bake cookies today. But, if you would like, you can have a snack. And you can help me cook dinner later.”
“I just want to bake cookies,” Mary Catherine replied with a disappointed sigh.
“I am sorry Miss Mary. But we just can’t today. I’m going to finish this story, and then Jonathan is waiting on me to help him with his homework.”
Peter Thomas was sitting in Mommy’s lap sucking his thumb, patiently waiting for her to continue with the story. Suddenly, Mary Catherine yanked Peter’s thumb out of his mouth. “You need to stop sucking your thumb,” she said, “your teeth are going to be crooked.”
Beginning to whine, Baby Peter yelled, “No! Teef not cricket!” And with that, he plugged his thumb back into his mouth.
“Not ‘cricket’, it’s ‘crook-ed’!” Mary Catherine pronounced the word slowly and clearly. “Crickets are little black bugs,” she added.
This somehow got his attention, and he began to whale “Mommy! Mawy Caf say teef are bwack bugs…not yike bugs!”
“I did not! You should learn to talk right too…”
“Mary Catherine!” her mommy exclaimed. “What in the world is wrong with you? I think you better go to your room and think for a while. I will be in there to talk with you when I am finished with your brothers.”
Mary Catherine sat on her bed feeling very sorry for herself. She began to cry, and talk to her favorite doll, Elizabeth. “I don’t know why I was so mean to Baby Peter. I’m just sad.”
Mommy came into her room. “Mary Catherine, have you thought about what is wrong?”
“Yes Mommy,” Mary Catherine sighed, “I just want to do something special with you. We don’t get to do special things together very much.”
“Oh, so that is it,” Mommy said. “Well, I think you should go and apologize to Peter Thomas. I do not think you were really mad him.”
“Yes ma’am. I was a little mean,” Mary Catherine said.
“He is in his room playing with the blocks. After you finish with him, come to the kitchen to talk with me,” Mommy said.
Mary Catherine apologized to Baby Peter, gave him a kiss, and made him giggle by tickling him. She then went to the kitchen where she saw that Mommy had set the table for a tea party
“Would you like to join me for tea?” Mommy asked.
When Mary Catherine sat down, she saw that they were really having Oreo’s and milk, but that was great with her. She loved Oreo’s.
Mommy served Mary Catherine cookies and milk, and they both began to eat. Mary Catherine ate each cookie the same way. She carefully pulled apart the cookies to expose the creamy, sugary filling. Only after she had completely eaten the cream filling, did Mary Catherine pop the crunchy, chocolate cookies into her mouth.
“Where is Jonathan?” Mary Catherine asked.
“He is practicing his spelling words,” Mommy answered.
“Do you love Jonathan because he is your first baby?” Mary Catherine asked.
“Well, I love Jonathan, and I am glad he is my first baby,” Mommy said. “Jonathan teaches me how to be a better mother, and that makes things easier with you and Baby Peter!” Mommy said with a smile
“You love Peter Thomas a lot too, don’t you? Are you glad that he is your last baby?” As Mary Catherine talked, she continued her routine with the cookies, first eating the cream filling, and then the cookie.
“I do love Baby Peter a lot. And I am glad he is the last baby. He makes our family laugh a lot doesn’t he?” Mommy was smiling at Mary Catherine.
No one said anything for a little while. They both just ate cookies and drank milk. Then Mommy said, “But you want to know something else my little Miss Mary Catherine?”
“I love you, too, just as much as I love the boys.” As Mommy was talking, she too was pulling apart her Oreo’s to expose the sweet, creamy middle.
“But I am not the oldest, and I am not the youngest,” Mary Catherine said.
“No, you are not. You are the middle baby. You are the cream filling, just like this.” Mommy held up her cookie to show Mary Catherine the yummy, white center. “You are the soft, sugary part that holds the two chocolate cookies together. You make the boys more than just a couple of crunchy cookies. With you, we have Oreo’s!” Mommy smiled and popped a whole cookie into her mouth.
Mommy picked up the last cookie, and took a bite out of it. “See, I love the whole Oreo cookie. But it takes all three parts to make it an Oreo. Just like it takes Jonathan, you and Baby Peter to make our family whole. I do not know where my love for one of you ends, and for the other begins, I just know that having all three of you is God’s sweetest blessing.”
Mary Catherine was suddenly very happy, and she gave her mommy a big hug. “I love you Mommy.”
Mary Catherine Cook was not the oldest in her family, and she was not the youngest.