You are my beautiful middle boy. 4 years old, changing before my eyes from a chubby little toddler into a lean almost-ready-for-school boy. All big brown eyes, ridiculously long eyelashes, floppy blonde hair, cheeky grin and dimples. I catch sight of you sometimes and you take my breath away. If you take a nap on the settee in the daytime, I love to watch you sleep. I can’t believe that something so gorgeous and perfect came from me and your Daddy.
You are strong willed, fiercely independent to the point of stubbornness, have an unquenchable need to run and jump and shout and wrestle, and never want to sit still. A typical boy in so many ways, always happy when you’ve got a ball at your feet, a stick in your hand, or a superhero costume on.
When we told people that your younger brother was on the way, many of our friends and family commented that you were always destined to be a middle child. The general consensus tells us that middle children are troublesome and awkward little sods. Resentful of their older sibling who has done everything first and is normally the golden child, and jealous of their younger sibling who will always be the baby of the family. Often rebellious, trying to catch their parents’ attention by doing something naughty or dangerous. And at the time, when you were just over 3, you were all of those things. In bucketloads.
People would smile and nod, knowingly, when they saw me dragging you along the pavement, wailing because I wouldn’t let you run into the road, with your older brother in tow and my pregnant belly on show. Aaah, the naughty middle child they’d think. He’ll be the one who turns his Mum’s hair grey and keeps her awake at night.
Well, my darling boy, in lots of ways they were right. You are a non-stop bundle of energy and enthusiasm. Verging from sweet and extremely loving to a raging teary mess and back again in the blink of an eye, yours is the name that I shout in frustration most often, head in hands, and for this I am sorry.
I’m sorry that you weren’t the first person I loved unconditionally – your big brother took that prize. I’m sorry that you’ve never had all of my undivided attention, coming second in line as you did. And you won’t be the last person to make me cry when you say, “love you mama” for the first time. That honour will go to your baby brother.
I’m sorry that your baby brother pushes you away when you cuddle me because he wants me all to himself, although you graciously say, “it’s ok because he doesn’t understand you’re my Mummy too”, which makes me weep a little inside. How can you be so understanding, patient and grown up already, when I can remember you being a toddler like your brother is now.
I’m sorry that you won’t be the first one to start school, to learn to ride your bike and to swim. Big brother gets all that stuff. Doesn’t mean we won’t cheer you on like we did him though, and praise every achievement, however small, in the way that you applaud your baby brother’s first wobbly steps, arms outstretched to you, his beloved “Ma”.
I’m sorry that you’ll always be compared to your big brother. All those milestones, recorded and compared for ever more. First steps, first words, first time you slept through the night. It’s just your luck that your big brother is a brain on legs and could read when he was three. You aren’t interested in reading yet and that’s fine, but something tells me you’ll flourish at school and be reading in no time, once you set your mind to it. Plus you are a much better footballer and can run faster than your big brother already, and he’s 9.
But being a middle child has given you so much too. You are confident and outgoing, self assured and sure of yourself. You don’t follow the pack, but make up your own rules and run with them, not caring whether anyone else wants to join you. Superhero costumes at 6am? Yup, that’s how things work in your World. You are a great negotiator, a skill you’ve developed in many bargaining episodes with your big brother over Lego figures, or with me over how many bites of your dinner constitutes enough. And you are smart enough to know because I’ve got your brothers to contend with too, just how far to push things. And push things you do!
Desperate to be a ‘big boy’, you hero worship your big brother, learn so much from him and love to be involved in his games, tagging along with him and his mates whenever you get the chance. But you also love to play with your baby brother, spending hours showing him how to build a tower and drive cars on your car mat, and are fiercely protective of him at toddler group, so much so that you’ll tell off any other children who come too close to ‘your baby’.
In many ways you seem so much older than some of your peers who don’t have an older sibling. You are excited to start school, and not at all phased by any of it. Going to school will cement your place as a big boy in the family, in your eyes. You excel in your swimming and football lessons, listening to your coaches and following their directions, in a way that you never do at home. You are so, so proud when you are awarded player of the week, or come home with another swimming level passed and a badge to prove it. And the first person that you want to tell is your big brother, as it is his praise and admiration that makes your little chest swell with pride, and a tear come to my eye.
So, for not being my first or my last love, I’m sorry. But you, my precious middle boy, will always be right there in the very middle of my heart. Life is never dull with you around, and your cheeky grin can brighten even the darkest of days, especially when accompanied with your well timed favourite phrase, “guess what Mum…I love you”. For all your exasperating, maddening, hair tearing out behaviour, I wouldn’t change you, or your place in the middle of our family, for the whole World.
Love, Mum x