Tag Archives: three daughters

Raising the Middle child: Does Birth Order Really Matter?

Ask my brother and he would love to tell you how he didn’t get the same attention and love that my parents gave me and my sister. He’s the middle child and can seriously go on about how hard-done-by he was.

Fast forward a couple of decades and now I have three. My husband, third of six, also very aware of his ‘middle child’ status is keen to ensure our second daughter never feels deprived.

From hand me downs to sweet-giving to birthday parties… everything we say or give to our oldest is measured against whether we can do it for all three.

And this is harder than it looks. When the oldest grows out of her scooter and it’s still in great shape, why shouldn’t we pass it on to the next one? When one is old enough to go on a sleepover and the other isn’t, why should the eldest be held back?

It’s all gotten very confusing to me and I know we’re going to make mistakes along the way. But I am very aware of it and noted recently that  my middle child’s first and more powerful statements as a two year old is (with arms crossed firmly over her chest), “it’s not fair on me!”

I, being the youngest, undoubtedly had the stereotypical childhood of ease and indulgence as my parents were more relaxed with parenting, probably tired and much more ready to grant me that freedom.

Conventional wisdom about the middle child suggests middle children are neglected, misunderstood and undervalued. Their place in the birth order suggests parents are tired when they come along, having gone through the emotional turmoil of joys and fears with the first and willing enough to lavish it on when it comes to the youngest because they know it’s their last.

My middle daughter has all the hallmarks of what I thought marked the middle child. A feisty spirit, the constant feeling that she’s being hard done by- fighting for her place from both her older and her younger sisters-and fierce independence. Whether or not these are traits that will follow her until adulthood, I already feel guilty these first two years of her little life.

In researching for this post, I thought I’d come across a bunch of research that would back up my instinct that the middle child is less likely to succeed. But apparently I was wrong.

Research instead (and there’s a whole lot of it on birth order) suggests middle children are given attributes such as empathy, articulacy, independence and creativity. Having to negotiate with those both older and younger, they learn the art of compromise, loyalty, and the ability to see the others’ point of view. Take one of the modern geniuses of our time- Bill Gates. His ability to think outside the box and take risks are trademarks of a middle child.

Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy- heck, 52% of American presidents were middle children- well over their representative numbers.

In the same Swedish study, middle children were also found more likely to stay married. 80% of married middle children stayed together while only 50% of youngest children did.

So we can stop worrying. I certainly will. My child is fierce and she will fight harder to make her voice known but she’ll turn out okay- just like the millions who’ve gone before her.

One thing I know I can’t avoid however, is the tale she’ll tell when she’s grown about how her parents gave her her sister’s old scooter…

For more from Mixed.Up.Mama on parenting, read about Asking the Right Questions to get more information from your kids about school. 

A Letter to My Husband, Daddy to My Three Little Girls

Daddy’s Girls

“My turn!”, my eldest daughter screams as the three girls (well, two with one sort of crawling) clamber to climb on top of your back. “One at a time!”, you laugh gently, taking each one by the hand, bowing and spinning them in a sort of ballet waltz that mirrors that of the prince’s ball attended by Cinderella.

I’m watching our 4 year old as she becomes completely captivated.  No smile, only a look of pure intense concentration to dance as gracefully as she can. It doesn’t matter that it’s with you, her Dad.

In fact, it’s better because she knows she can be whomever or whatever she wants to be in this moment. Bossy, clumsy, even slightly dominating as she tries several times to lead the dance. She’s entranced by the magic of her imagination in a world where Daddy has made real the moment where the prince falls in love with the princess.   Still spellbound, she whispers, “Make me fly Daddy”. You dutifully lift her above your head and spin her around and around in the ultimate dance finale.

It’s their magical reality and it’s always been this way. Our daughters occupy that place in your heart that embodies pure love. That feeling of absolute adoration and infallible love that no other could replace.

It’s true that you rarely say ‘no’ to our girls and I can’t lie and say it doesn’t bother me sometimes when bedtime routine takes 3 times as long as it does with me because they need ‘one more story’ or want you to lie with them for ten more minutes. It sometimes means I have to be the bad guy who insists they eat their vegetables or refuses “one more sweetie”.

Inevitably as they grow, this relationship will change. Feasibly from the more physical play to more difficult, emotional needs. And it’s not easy with three daughters who all regard themselves as Daddy’s girl. As the youngest gets older, she’ll become more demanding. And so your attention will be split in yet another direction.

But I’ve come to appreciate the space you represent in our daughters’ lives. It’s different to mine. In a world where insecurity and self-doubt plague so many women, it’s so important for girls to know they have a safe space in a man with whom they can say anything and be loved no matter what.

You make sure each of them feels special, so conscious are you that they’re all different and need different things that although I’m the main caregiver, I appreciate the parenting example set by you.  You’re no push over but you always bend over backwards to make sure they’re happy. It means they go out with Daddy in mismatched clothes- often dress up outfits-, scooters, bicycles, whatever (could be both).

I know you didn’t foresee the changes that having children, particularly daughters, would have on you. What is it with a man and his daughters? And three at that.  Yes, we’ve both felt the pressure to have a boy and still the comments from other people about what it will be like when they’re all teenagers suggest an adverse future for you.

It’s not always easy coming from the Nigerian culture where the father’s role is the career go-getter and little importance is placed upon ‘playing’ with your children. I too notice the looks you sometimes get when we’re in some people’s presence.

Despite that, I have a feeling nothing will shift for you and your girls even when they’re moody teenagers who’ll inevitably push back and turn their back for a few moments. You’ll be right in there the way you already are when they want a side ponytail, baby doll to stop crying or the chance to play “Peppa Pig” with you.

For them, their first encounter and most important relationship with a man is and has been with their Dad. Add in the complexity that you are black, our daughters mixed and the media’s f***ed up representation of black men in our society, you represent so much more than just their Daddy.

If it’s true that little girls choose their future partners based on their fathers, having a Dad who is as adoring and absolute in his love for them is so precious. So today I count my blessings to have a husband who is the father to my daughters that they’ll always need. If I could choose a partner for my daughters it would be with a man like their Daddy. Thank you.

Love always,

Your wife