Middle child syndrome not so much

Apparently there is something called middle child syndrome and issues of birth order that were supposed to have affected me and my siblings. Oldest siblings are supposed to be bossy, which mine is; many US presidents and other famous people like actor Julia Roberts were middle children; the last born is indulged and spoiled.

However I thought that certain other factors such gender, the era and the city in which we were born played far more important roles in our lives. We were part of the baby boom generation in Buffalo which was deeply segregated. But here is where gender steps in because both of my sisters have lupus, an auto-immune deficiency in which their bodies began attacking them when they should have been in the prime of their lives. My older sister had married her high school sweetheart and had two children.She was very active in skiing and work until the lupus  forced her to apply for disability. Although the disease has not killed her, it is very expensive, requiring many different medications. Her success in her later years has come through guiding her sons into manhood and becoming a grandmother.

Gender was very important for me and my younger brother as we were the facing the draft and the Vietnam War. As the older of the two, I had an advantage in that I had a gift for writing and when I applied myself, I was a good student. I also was in an era when college was relatively inexpensive. So even though I had setbacks while struggling with mental illness I was able to survive the military, finish school and start a professional career. It was necessary to leave Buffalo when I did in 1980 as the city began a long and painful economic decline. Many of my friends also left.

My writing has helped me enter several different careers including my present one as a peer support specialist. I have seen a few generations of actual and pretend nephews. And I have satisfaction from seeing them struggle with many of the same things that I experienced.

My younger brother was not as fortunate. He had a learning disability that was undiagnosed. We discovered much too late that he could barely read or write, a gift of the school system that simply passed him along. His mental illness was too powerful to overcome combined with the effects of drug use. He was struggling at a time when I was also at risk. Ultimately I had to save myself. Our mother told him to go into the military which was the natural place for saving young black men or killing them. Just before his scheduled enlistment he drowned under mysterious circumstances.

My younger sister was the baby and has 3 children of her own. One of her children, a son, has lupus. She was thew only one of us to move south. While my older sister and I have always been able to count on Mom, our younger sister has always struggled with her. As a result she was cut off several year ago. She drives a school bus. It’s very likely that her mental illness is an underlying factor.

So, to me, life has not been any crystal staircase. We have all been affected by race, mental illness, segregation and the era in which we grew up. Our mother’s ability to provide for us was a strong protective factor. She passed along a strong work ethic. I’m glad that we were spaced a number of years apart but I honestly don’t think that being the second of four was that important.

At this stage my ability to communicate, my writing, my interest in people and my good health are the most important factors. But I would be interested in hearing from others about how they feel birth order affected them.


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