To the One Stuck in the Middle, You Had a Great Year Too


A boy resting his chin on his hands.For the past month, almost every conversation in our household has centered on a graduation. What our youngest is wearing to her preschool moving on ceremony or what songs they’re singing at our oldest’s fifth grade moving up event.

Our calendar has been filled with farewell bonfires, PTA graduation party planning meetings, last-day picnics, and celebratory field trips. We’ve bought new outfits and sent important dates to the grandparents. And inside my heart has swelled, overwhelmed by all the changes – our firstborn leaving elementary school, our baby leaving preschool.

And yet, in the center of this cyclone stands our son, our middle child, strong and quiet, his transition from second to third grade very much overlooked as his two “graduating” sisters vie for the spotlight.

When my oldest finished second grade, I declared it a big deal.

“Second grade is the end of lower elementary school. Next year, you’ll read bigger books and learn more complicated lessons!” I remember saying, excited for her to cross the threshold into a new stage.

But now, whenever I say this, my oldest chimes in with which teacher is best, which lessons he’ll like most, and how simple it all is compared to what awaits her in sixth grade. I try to jump in and counter, to say third grade is hard too, but by the time I find the words, I can see the defeat in my son’s eyes, the resignation that it’s all been done before.

Somehow, going into third grade doesn’t seem as special the second time. And yet, for our son, this will be his first and only time as a third grader. He may not be our trailblazer, and he may not be the baby, but he is still walking his own path. And his journey is every bit as special.

So, as the graduation ceremonies and parties continue to roll on from May into June, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate the boy stuck in the middle. Because even if this year isn’t filled with celebrations, he has had a great year too.

Second grade has been the year we discovered his love of math and started challenging him with more complex problems at home.

It has been the year he showed us his incredible work ethic, as he did his homework every day the minute he came home from school, running up to his little table each day at 3:35, only emerging to talk about his day once the work was done.

It has been the year he started guitar lessons, taking his love of country music to the next level, learning chords and introductions to favorite songs.

It has been the year his love for sports exploded, whether on the flag football field or, most recently, on the baseball diamond. For years, he said baseball was boring, but now he loves it so much I often find him and Dad in bed way past lights out, his phone hidden underneath the covers, watching the Yankees game in secret. Every time I find him, I pretend to be dismayed, but I’m happy to see his big smile – just like I love his nightly batting practice, even when I almost get hit by the ball.

It’s been the year he started doing chores without me nagging. He brushes his teeth, cleans his room, and fills water cups for himself and his siblings, and his innate kindness spills over into all he does.

This year, he made new friends, tried new sports, and grew a love of sharks and fishing. He’s also attended hundreds of gymnastics practice pick-ups, traveled to multiple out-of-town meets, and always done so with a smile. He has endured hours of graduation talk and even accepted that the fifth-grader-only graduation party will keep his sister and Mom away from him on the night of his eighth birthday.

We know it isn’t easy being stuck in the middle. He will always hit the big milestones second, never first or last. And there will be some years, like this one, where he will sometimes feel trapped between the big events of his sisters.

But he can never forget how important he is to this family. He is the glue that holds us together, the bridge that best understands our oldest and youngest. He is the one who plays seamlessly with every age, who knows how to be kind and gentle with little ones, but who can soar through a ninja course like a kid much older. He is the one who is happiest when we are all together, who sees beauty in the cardinals flying by our windows, who loves animals so much he often asks to feed the wildlife living in our backyard.

Yes, being the middle child may not be easy, but it is something to be celebrated. His milestones mean just as much, regardless of when they happen. We hope he always feels that – and in his heart, he knows there is no condition or order in which love is most excellent.

And if I ever mess up, if the graduation talk and big milestones ever feel too great, I suggest he finds his father. Because he is actually a middle-child survivor, maybe that’s why he lets him stay up late watching baseball.

So here’s to our kind, empathetic, hard-working, not-graduating middle child. We know it has been a crazy spring. But you’ve accomplished so many amazing things this year, and we can’t wait to see where you’ll go next.


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