I loved growing up as the middle child. I floated seamlessly through my childhood, often overshadowed by my siblings and left to my own devices. I wasn't my parents' firstborn or the baby of the family. I was not mature enough to do certain things like my older sister, but not young enough to get away with mischief like my baby brother.
I was stuck in the middle, and that's exactly how I liked it.
My mother likes to tell the story of how I learned to ride my bike. My parents had set out determined to teach my older sister to ride a two-wheeler. There we all were, in a big grassy field, with my sister struggling to find her balance and courage and my baby brother pining for attention. While my parents were distracted with the other two, I placed my feet on the two pedals of my bicycle and took off riding. They were so busy trying to teach my sister, they hadn't noticed I had taught myself to ride without training wheels. My parents were shocked. To this day my mom still shakes her head and laughs when she retells the story.
I was born at exactly the right time. Three years after my older sibling first came into the world and a good five years before my baby brother completed our family.
While my older sister was the first to experience some of childhood's big milestones, I got to mirror her successes and sit back and learn from her missteps. I admired and looked up to her in a way only younger siblings can, but I also understood she carried an unspoken pressure as the firstborn. She carried the invisible weight better than I could have and that just made me love her more.
My younger brother was a prince in my eyes. He was the baby, and that's how I viewed him my entire childhood. He could do no wrong. It was my job to teach him how to color inside the lines and when he was ready, or how to fearlessly hold the handle bars and ride his bicycle without training wheels.
Between the three of us, there was always someone to play with. My siblings were my best friends. Yes, there were fights, but as the middle child, I enjoyed playing the peacekeeper. I was sandwiched nicely between the two best siblings a girl could ask for.
Looking back, I think being the middle child gave me the freedom to just be me. I didn't come with the label of being the responsible one or the leader like firstborn children often do, and I wasn't the baby of the family either. I was just the middle child, and I loved every minute of it.