For those of you that didn't know, I, Ariele Joy Sieling the First, am a middle child. Now, I don't think this condition is noteworthy enough for an international holiday, but for some reason Facebook and Twitter disagree. Thus #InternationalMiddleChildDay was born. And it is today. Apparently.
People say lots of things about middle children. They say we are bitter, resentful, unmotivated, and feel like we don't belong. They say we are great team players, cooperative, trusting, and make good friends.
But whatever. Who cares what they say? I prefer to think of myself as an independent human being who is not defined or influenced by my brothers.
Of course, this is not true in the slightest.
I grew up with a genius for an older brother and a genius for a little brother.
Gary was good at math and science and computers. I took Chemistry because he said it was the easiest science (this is a decision I have regretted ever since). Gary tried to teach me limits when I was in 7th grade, but I always ended up drawing pictures on his graph paper instead of learning anything. My (non-English) teachers always emitted a vague sense of disappointment when I turned out not to be mini-Gary (my English teachers were delighted). He was at the top of his class (3rd, and deliberately not 2nd, so the legend goes), President of the Chess Club, and often found teaching himself computer programming in his spare time.
Evan was a brilliant musician, always with his hands on a guitar or a drumset or whatever instrument he could find. Even though I played a bunch of instruments too, people always wanted him in their band or orchestra, and rarely me. I stuck myself into whatever band or group I could, but even with the disadvantage of being 2 years younger, he still sailed way past me in skill and talent with every instrument he touched. He learned drums, guitar, bass, banjo, baritone, and harmonica before he was even a senior in high school, and was regularly asked to play for churches and schools.
I think that if you have siblings (regardless of how many) there is always a sense of competition. As a middle child, no matter how skilled I became in my area of expertise, I always had this nagging sense that I wasn't as good as my siblings, even though in any other relationship it would be irrelevant.
For example, I always thought that I wasn't as smart as Gary (this is false) because I didn't understand math. I passed with As, yes, but I didn't really get it. Never mind that he read Calculus textbooks during his summer vacation.
Or, I always thought I wasn't as smart as Evan (also false) because reading and playing music took so much more effort for me than for him. Never mind that he practiced 28 hours a day and I practiced maybe 1 (if that).
Instead of doing math and playing music, I spent my free time drawing pictures, writing, playing pretend, and making up stories in my head. And guess what? Telling stories is what I'm good at now.
This vague sense of self-disappointment is (in my opinion) the middle child's biggest challenge, because, in the long run, none of it really matters. What matters is what you're good at, not what they're good at. What matters are what your goals are, not what their goals are.
Good siblings will help you out, prop you up, and drag you along to help you reach your goals. And if you're a good sibling, you will help them out, prop them up, and help them reach their goals. At very least, they will be your cheerleader and you will be theirs.
I have to say that I have two excellent siblings. Whatever else they may excel at, they definitely excel at being brothers. Gary has patiently dragged me, kicking and screaming, into a world filled with computers and programming. I can now build my own website with minimal effort, and even do basic coding when necessary. Evan has got my back in the creative realm--he designed my logo (at the top of my website), has written music for a couple of different projects, and starred in my wonderful book trailer for The Wounded World.
These days, I do my freelance writing thing, Evan is an awesome music producer in Nashville (check out my fav song!), and Gary programs stuff in who knows what languages, and has married a kick-ass stained glass window-er. We all have our own passions, we all have our own goals, and we all are willing to help each other out when push comes to shove.
We're not kids anymore, and while that vague sense of competition still exists somewhere in my head, it's now only a motivator. I'm good at writing. Gary's good at programming. Evan's good at music. (Actually, we're all writers in a sense--I write words, Gary writes code, Evan writes music! I know, crazy.)
But there is no way I can honestly say, "I am an independent human being who is not defined or influenced by my brothers." I may, in fact, be an independent human being, but I have no qualms about admitting that my brothers have had a huge influence on me and have helped define who I have become.
And I wouldn't change that for the world.