Dear Curly Mop
I can recall the exact moment that your fate was sealed. You weren’t even born yet. It was the day of my 19 week scan and your father and I were waiting for our turn. I desperately needed you to be a girl. I suspect he hoped you would be a boy. I remember saying to your daddy I felt sad that this would be the last time we ever saw one of our babies on the ultrasound monitor. He simply said ‘why is this the last time?’
In that exact moment the prospect of a third child became reality, and you became a middle child.
Two and a half years later, when you were barely two and just beginning to find yourself, you not only became a middle child, but a middle sister. Never the biggest, never the smallest, but always being lumped with one of your sisters as one of either ‘the two big girls’ or ‘the two babies’.
I knew the fraught position you were in, yet was powerless to change it. You were always being told to wait while I fed the baby. Then you were told to hurry up so we could get your oldest sister to pre-primary on time. You were pushed into bed so I could have a moment’s peace, then woken up again so we could do the afternoon school run.
Now at the age of three you have shown yourself to be independent, strong-willed, imaginative and stubborn. You are also completely immune to any sort of threat or bribe. The prospect of losing dessert or TV or a toy means nothing to you, and as such it can be difficult to control you.
The only thing that you seem to want is the one thing I find hardest to give: my complete, undivided attention. Hard because I have three children and a house to run and my writing. Hard because you always want to play imaginary games, but you don’t actually tell me what we’re playing, so I always get it wrong and you tell me off.
There are some things I want to tell you. I do tell them to you now, but you’re three and stubborn, and you don’t listen to anyone except Dora.
Although you will always be surrounded by the blonde bombshells, twins separate by five years, never feel you need to be like your sisters. Never feel you need to be the eldest and never feel you need to be a baby.
You are my middle, and just like a ham and salad sandwich, this family would not be complete without the middle.I need you to be yourself, and whatever you are at that point in time is fine with me. I will do my hardest to never compare you with the other girls. I will probably fail, but I promise to do my best.
I see you trying on different personas, trying to get attention: the naughty girl – baiting your older sister until she hits you in frustration, or deliberately pushing the baby over. I see you trying to be the sweet girl – coming to tell me at all hours of the day and night that you ‘wuv’ me, batting your eyelashes, puckering your mouth. I see you trying to be the baby, refusing to get out of nappies, using a baby voice, copying your baby sister.
Please don’t spend your life trying to be someone you’re not. It’s exhausting. Experience has taught me you should spend your time and energy trying to find out who you are.
It is an important lesson: if people really love you, they will accept all of you, and love all of you. If someone says they love you because you are thin or smart or have curly hair, then they don’t really love you. It’s taken me many years to realise that I can be loved despite having flaws.
It’s a liberating realisation to be able to relax in your own body and be yourself, and still be loved.
You may feel hard done by being the middle, but I believe that in life we are never given any more than we can handle. Don’t look upon it that you are neither the eldest nor the youngest. Instead, see yourself as being both a big sister and a little sister. Your sisters cannot claim such a varied and important role; you will have the protection of your big sister and the opportunity to guide your little sister.
Some people may claim that the life of a middle is the hardest, always forgotten, overlooked in the drama of the older sibling and the intensity of the baby. But in other regards it could be the easiest, you have someone else to forge the path and fight the battles with your parents, while you have someone else to bring up the rear, and takes the burden of empty-nest concerns.
That being said, I do not expect you to coast along. I see the fire within you and know that you will make your own way, despite your place in the middle, or perhaps because of it.
I’ve always said that if money was of no concern, I would ask for two things. Clean sheets and a newly made bed every night (someone else to do the washing, of course) and someone to deliver me beautiful fresh sandwiches every day with a variety of exotic fillings.
Embrace your middle-ness Curly Mop, because every day of your life, you will be surrounded by the fresh sheets of your sisters, protecting you from the world, yet you will also be the exotic filling in our family sandwich, making our life more interesting and exciting.
Perhaps I took those analogies just a little too far, but I hope you understand what I mean.
And now I am hungry.
Thank you for being my daughter Curly Mop, whatever your place in this family, you are a perfect fit for me, and I will always love you.