Why the middle is different

Saturday is Middle Child Day. Do they really need a day of their own? Well, says Margaret Cabourn-Smith, when else do they get to be the centre of attention?

three cats
I was delighted recently when I saw a friend of mine with her three children and she, a youngest herself, confirmed that her middle child definitely had it hardest. I punched the air in vindication.

We middle children have always known this. It’s just that no one can hear us saying it over you eldests, youngests and onlies BANGING ON.

I should clarify at this point that I love my sisters fiercely and without reservation; they make my life 100 per cent better. But it’s also true that middle-childness has left a huge mark on me. I think I was well into my 20s before I stopped automatically sitting in the middle seat in the back of any car I got into.

A few years back, I was in an episode of Miranda. It was the second series and had already been established as a smash hit. The atmosphere at the recording was pretty exciting.

My sisters had both been enthusiastic about coming but tickets for the studio show were highly sought after and it was decided one could sit in the studio audience and one would go in the green room (where actors and production guests potter around).

By the time the recording had finished, my older sister was something of a celebrity, having enjoyed some hugely entertaining back and forth with the warm-up man. She arrived backstage to greet me, having somehow been presented with some flowers. I overheard a couple of strangers approach her to say how funny she was and that her daughter sounded great.

Meanwhile, during the show, the other actors approached me, telling me how hysterical and fun my younger sister was. During the after-party, I sat with one of the writers, an old friend. He was smirking at me.

“What?” I laughed. “Well,” he said, “I can see why you had to do it professionally.” There I was, in a primetime BBC1 comedy, overshadowed by my sisters yet again.

Having said that, once at university my parents came to take just me out for dinner and I got freaked out. When it was just the three of us, I felt uncomfortable and confused. Where was everyone? Why were these people both looking at me at the same time? Such pressure.

So yeah, I shouldn’t complain. Not only did being a middle child give me a sweet, supportive (if constantly interrupting) group of people to challenge and entertain me, it also inspired me to follow my massively attention-seeking dreams.


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Written by Margaret Cabourn-Smith

Margaret is a comedy writer performer popping up on your TV and radio who over thinks and over talks.