The middle child (taking my eye off the ball)

Of all my kids, my younger son has always been the easiest. He has never been any trouble at all.

My eldest has always been the one who has challenged me the most. Not surprising, really, because everything he does is a first time – he’s paving the way for his siblings and we’re all making mistakes along the way. Poor kid.

My daughter is, and always has been, an utter delight. But she is a bit highly strung and does have a slight tendency towards being demanding.

Then there’s my younger son, the middle child. He slept for the first 12 weeks of his life and when he eventually opened his eyes, he was one seriously chilled-out, happy boy. He was instantly his brother’s best friend and gave us no worries with eating, sleeping, potty training or anything else. He was happy, relaxed and everything you would want from a son. He was brilliant.

kids, family, siblings

The way they were – the challenging one, the stressy one and the brilliant one

But the problem with brilliant kids is you take your eye off the ball. You’re too busy chasing the others, trying to get them to eat bananas.

My eldest and my daughter are notoriously fussy eaters. Getting them to eat at all and getting them to eat a diet which is halfway healthy has been a battle for nearly 14 years now. My vegetarian eldest is finally coming through it, but for years he would have happily lived on pizza, bread, potato waffles and Weetabix. Yep, no protein and no fruit and vegetables. My daughter eats meat, but has a tiny appetite, eats at the speed of a snail and is obsessed with sweet food. And she won’t eat fruit and vegetables either. Last year, the whole thing came and bit her on the bum, leaving her with chronic constipation, which is never more than a banana away, even now.

So every day I nag my eldest to eat a banana (he voluntarily eats apples) and I give my daughter a banana after school, because she doesn’t like any other fruit.

Now he’s older, we expect my eldest to be a bit more responsible and help out around the house. He’s not great, but he’s getting better and we even pay him to hoover and cut the grass. My daughter is pretty clean and tidy anyway. She helps out of her own accord and loves to do things like get ready for holidays, as well as wrap presents and write cards. When you’re under a lot of pressure, having someone around to help out like that is a godsend.

And then I realised. Someone is sailing completely under the radar.

I’ve taken my eye completely off the ball.

My younger son, my amazing, chilled out, no trouble-at-all boy is getting away with murder.

The one child who was never a fussy eater refuses to try new foods (his siblings try them, even if nine times out of 10 they hate them) and never eats any fruit. Yes, he might eat his peas and sweetcorn without making a fuss and will eat his vegetables at school dinners, but his five-a-day often consists of just two. Baked beans and apple juice. His brother and sister, the fussy pair, often reach the dizzy heights of three or even four a day.

His bedroom is a tip. Clothes come off, they stay there and get buried. They don’t make it to the wash. He doesn’t take his own plate after meals and he drops chocolate wrappers in his room. He never puts anything in the recycling, doesn’t offer to carry bags – or even carry them when asked. He looks shocked if you ask him to lay the table.

He does nothing.

I’ve spent so many years focusing on the more troublesome members of my family that they’re doing OK now. But my younger son is going to need a fair bit of encouragement to get him back on track.

Does anyone else have this with one of their kids?

Author: Sarah Mummy

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22 Comments

  1. my youngest brother was like this for some reason. Flew under the radar and got away with everything till we realised rather than my mum or dad! We then kept making him do things. He’s still the most chilled out (and frustrating) sometimes!

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    • Ha ha, my brother was the same too! He was the middle one and the only boy. My mum and dad were totally aware he did nothing, but he was still able to get away with it!

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  2. Thankfully my middle one is still being pretty good – but like you the eldest and youngest are by far the most demanding so my biggest prob with the middle one is making sure he doesn’t get left out of having attention from me!

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    • My middle one has that problem too as he’s so much less demanding!

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  3. I think this is so easy to do, especially if your have three children – it’s flipping hard work! I’m in danger of doing this with my son though so thanks for the reminder!

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    • You’re welcome! It’s so easy to ignore the good/ quiet one when you’ve got three!

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  4. Really honest and interesting post. Its the kind of thing you hear happens at schools sometimes isn’t it, where the good kids get less attention than troublesome ones so I can imagine it happening at home too, especially the more kids you have. I was the middle child and always felt a little pushed out as I wasn’t the incredibly brainy but seriously dyslexic oldest or the cute mischievous youngest, I was the only girl which helped a bit though and no long term damage done 🙂 I think its great you can see it yourself which means you can balance things up a bit! 🙂 x

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    • Thanks very much. It’s usually the good, above average, but not brilliant kids who sail under the radar at school. They’re all individuals and the most important thing to me is that he’s a lovely boy – we can work on his tidiness!

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  5. Having three I’ve noticed that the middle one is the one who is least trouble. He is however very strong willed and can get away with it a bit more. But he’s no shrinking violet. He’s louder than my oldest and winds them up. I am lucky they are not too fussy, but I can understand this post. Reward charts work well for us, but mine are still a bit younger. xx

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    • My middle one is an absolute delight who gets on so well with both his brother and his sister. This has obviously made me blind to the fact that’s he being a bit lazy! But I’m onto him now! 😉 x

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  6. Oh bless him! I just have the two, so probably no middle child syndrome here (I say probably as there were two in my family & I managed to be a typical middle child, while my sister was both a typical youngest and a typical eldest child – skills!)

    I’m sure he’ll get back on track. & middle children are apparently often excellent negotiators & peacekeepers.

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    • Thanks very much! He’s definitely that – he’s the only thing that keeps his brother and sister together as he gets on well with both of them. That was a pretty mean feat for your sister to be both a typical youngest and eldest!

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  7. oh bless him they are all different.

    My husband is the end child , he is one of 7
    it was always interesting he says growing up

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    • Thanks! They certainly are all different! Growing up as one of seven must have been very interesting!

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  8. I think you do focus in on a few areas with your kids, and then other things may slide. I have just the two and find myself doing this, so I know I’d definitely do it with three!

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    • Thanks very much! There’s so much that my middle one is amazing at, that it was easy not to notice these things, but I’ll be paying more attention from now on!

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  9. Oh, I really relate to this! As the least-troublesome child of three, and the motivated teacher’s pet, I slipped under the radar of my parents…. and started behaving in ways I shouldn’t have been, possibly in the hope they would finally notice me. It’s something I am quite conscious of now as a mum of three. Mine are all still young, 5, 3 and 1, but I do worry about it for the future.

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    • That’s interesting that you have personal experience of this! There were two of us that were least troublesome and, with nine years between us, we were both able to be least troublesome in our own time! I never thought I would have any issues with my younger son, but I can see aspects of him are very similar to my brother – the middle one!

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  10. Ah yes, the joys of trying to juggle too many children, I know that feeling very well. It is hard when things go under the radar like that, but you will get him back on track and so will the new school.

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    • Thanks, we most certainly will! There’s so much about him that is amazing, but we need to start focusing on the bits that aren’t so great.

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  11. Funny isn’t it how we label our kids… I have one that’s super untidy & quite demanding while the other is chilled about everything. It has to be down to nature and not nurture doesn’t it?

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    • When you’ve got twins, that definitely has to be nature, not nurture! I’m a great believer in it being a bit of both. I made all my mistakes on my eldest, as most parents do, but the boys are definitely very different personalities, and my daughter is different again.

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