Titus, my third son, said to me the other day, “I don’t like being in the middle.”
I was caught off guard at first, because it seemed so uncharacteristic of him to express concern over his birth order. As I probed further I discovered that his statement was motivated by feeling left out somehow, sandwiched between two boys and two girls who had each other to play with.
My heart went out to him. I never knew that he felt out of place, and I did my best to reassure him that he was in the middle because God elected for him to be third out of five. He was special, a bridge between the older kids and the younger ones. Furthermore, I added that his Angkong (my dad) and his Uncle Paul (my brother) were both middle children and they were great leaders. He managed a smile and seemed comforted.
However, Edric and I had to do more to demonstrate just how special he was. So we convened about Titus to strategize what to do. I also talked to Elijah and Edan to remind them to include Titus, and to be encouraging towards him. They were eager to be on-board about this. (In fact, Elijah has been hugging Titus a lot which Titus appreciates as an affectionate person. He tells him, “You are my buddy!”)
Titus is thoughtful and caring. He serves others and appreciates people very easily. He shares and considers the needs of others. In the area of music, he has an amazing ear to hear harmony and correct pitch. When it comes to mathematics and mechanical ability, he excels. Furthermore, he likes to hug everyone, even people he doesn’t know very well, since that’s his language of love. He is smiley and friendly.
Being a middle child doesn’t mean he is less than his siblings in anyway. He is just as unique and gifted. And having to adjust to older boys and younger girls makes him very flexible, patient, non-judgmental, and accommodating of personalities and gender differences.
I tell Titus all about these gifts God has bestowed upon him but it is Edric’s input and involvement in Titus’ life that probably counts the most. During our Singapore trip, when Titus wanted to go to the walkway at the Gardens of the Bay that joined the “trees,” Edric obliged him even if he was tired and preferred to go back to the place we were staying. In fact, Edric eagerly took Titus, along with Tiana and Catalina who also asked to go. He wanted Titus to know that he would go out of his way to accommodate him because he was important.
I think the smile on his face in this photo says it all…
So far, our collaborative effort to make Titus feel loved and special seem to be working. He is chattier and more confident. When I asked him how he was feeling about being in the middle, he replied, “I am better. I know I am loved.”
Every child is different and needs us to notice them. It doesn’t really matter whether he or she is first, second, third, oldest, youngest, or in the middle. While birth order may be a factor in the way a child develops a sense of self, we, as parents can let each of our kids know they are significant, special, valued and cherished so they don’t grow up to be insecure or wanting for attention and affection. We can also remind our kids to be thankful for the unchangeable aspects of their lives, birth order being one of them. God doesn’t make mistakes.
Finally, even if children’s personalities may be shaped by the dynamic within a family and the way they relate to older and younger siblings, each child can be taught God-confidence, how to rely on the Lord for enabling and capacity. I also think we need to tell our kids that they are leaders and examples to those around them, regardless of their position in the family. They can all role model Christ-like love and character. They can all exercise wisdom in their decisions. They can all make a positive impact on this world. Birth order doesn’t determine future success. It is obedience to God that results in blessing…
“Study this Book of Instruction (God’s Word) continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:8-9