Herald Journal Columns
March 20, 2006, Herald Journal

First born, middle child, or ‘baby’


My husband and I have three children, which means we have a first born, a middle child, and of course, the “baby.”

There is much literature out there that discusses certain traits that go along with being the first, middle, or “baby” in the family. This article is not going to focus on that literature base, but rather on the parental feelings and the unique love that is shared and felt for each child.

My husband and I often have conversations about each of our children, their differences and similarities, and what birth order has to do with each of their personality traits, because I truly do believe it does affect who they are (and that is not necessarily negative).

We would all probably be different people if we didn’t have the siblings that we have, or if we didn’t have siblings at all (if we were an only child).

I know I would probably do things or think about things differently if I was not a twin. I am so very glad I am blessed with my twin brother, for we are best of friends and think very similarly about many, many things.

As parents, we may often handle things differently with the first born, than we do with the middle child, or the “baby.”

The first born will always be special because (among a multitude of other reasons) he was just that, the first born, our first creation. We, as parents, experienced many “firsts” with him, and we will always remember those firsts, and what we learned from them.

The middle child (or children, if you have more than three children) will always be special because (among a multitude of other reasons) she was just that, our middle child. We handled some things differently with her because we learned from our guinea pig, the first born.

But we also know that we have to make sure that she knows that she is loved and is special because of her position in the family. She was not the first for most things for us, except that she’s a girl and our first born is a boy – so we enjoyed the “firsts” of dances, and tights, and curls, and ribbons.

Of course, the “baby” will always be the baby, no matter how old she is, and she will always be special because (among a multitude of other reasons), she was just that, our “baby.”

The other day, I was reading “Chicken Soup For The Mother’s Soul” by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne, and Marci Shimoff (Health Communications, Inc., 1997), and came across a “letter” that was so befitting our family situation and dynamics, I immediately shared it with my husband, who just shook his head in agreement as he was reading it. I am sure many other families can relate to the letter, as well.

The author is unknown, but it was submitted by Barbara Wiltberger, and could have been submitted by any parents with more than one child.

“Dear Firstborn,

“I’ve always love you best because you were our first miracle. You were the genesis of a marriage and the fulfillment of young love.

“You sustained us through the hamburger years, the first apartment (furnished in Early Poverty), our first mode of transportation (1955 Feet), and the seven-inch TV we paid on for 36 months.

“You were new, had unused grandparents, and enough clothes for a set of triplets. You were the original model for a mom and dad who were trying to work the bugs out. You got the strained lamb, the open safety pins, and three-hour naps.

“You were the beginning.”

“Dear Middle Child,

“I’ve always loved you best because you drew a tough spot in the family and it made you stronger for it.

“You cried less, had more patience, wore faded hand-me-downs, and never in your life did anything first. But it only made you more special.

“You were the one we relaxed with, who helped us realize a dog could kiss you and you wouldn’t get sick. You could cross a street by yourself long before you were old enough to get married. And you helped us understand the world wouldn’t collapse if you went to bed with dirty feet.

“You were the child of our busy, ambitious years. Without you, we never could have survived the job changes and the tedium and routine that is marriage.”

“To the Baby,

“I’ve always loved you best because while endings are generally sad, you are such a joy.

“You readily accepted the milk-stained bibs, the lower bunk, the cracked baseball bat, the baby book that had nothing written in it except a recipe for graham cracker pie crust that someone had jammed between the pages.

“You are the one we held on to so tightly. You are the link with our past, a reason for tomorrow. You darken our hair, quicken our steps, square our shoulders, restore our vision, and give us a sense of humor that security, maturity, and durability can’t provide.

“When your hairline takes on the shape of Lake Erie and your own children tower over you, you will still be our baby.”

– A Mother

(Could have been written by a father, too.)

* * *

My daughter received the book, “You’re All My Favorite,” by Sam McBratney, Candlewick Press, 2004, as a birthday present from her cousin, Ben. The book so eloquently tells the story of how a Mommy Bear and Daddy Bear love each of their three cub children “the best.” What a wonderful gift and story.