When I heard people talk about this, “middle child syndrome,” I thought it was a load of made up psychobabble. There was no way my middle child would ever have such a thing. Well, the truth is, it is real, and it does exist.
I can attest to giving my middle child less attention than her two other siblings. It really can’t be helped. The first child receives so much time because she is the only one; no competition. Simple. The last one receives so much attention because whilst the other two are off playing and going to school the little one is home alone with you, soaking up all the love. In the meantime, the middle child has never in her whole life had any time alone with mum or dad. Well, not in my house anyway.
At six-years-old, Lucy was showing erratic behaviour. She had become introverted and mad at her family and the world. I tried my best to give her attention, but it got to the point that I was thinking about getting professional help. As it turned out I didn’t have to, and all thanks to ten challenging weeks that will be etched in my mind forever.
It began with a bone-cracking noise, followed by a cry that a parent never wants to hear. Our, “middle child” had snapped her femur; a spiral break flipping on the trampoline. She was rushed to hospital in an ambulance. This type of broken leg cannot be simply mended with a cast and you get sent home. It must be fixed through long periods in hospital lying flat on your back in traction attached to pullies and bags of sand to pull and fuse the bones back into place. During this time, Lucy was not allowed to move from the hospital bed. This was torture for our little active, soccer-player kid.
We had to watch her fall into each stage: grief, denial, anger, bargaining and ultimately close to depression. She didn’t want any hospital food and didn’t care about reading, playing with toys or even watching TV. When visitors came, she often refused to talk to them or even look at them. But then something strange began to happen.
My husband and I took turns sitting by Lucy’s side 24 hours a day, keeping her company and helping her. This was the first time in her life that she received undivided attention from her parents. Eventually, she came to accept the situation and started truly engaging with us.
“How did you know daddy was the one?” she suddenly asked me one day.
“What do you mean honey?”
“I mean, there are so many men in the world, how did you know that daddy was the one for you to marry?”
Let’s remember the child proposing this mature question was only starting Grade One at school. After answering that personal question, she fired off another one. “If God made Adam and Eve first, then are we all related?”
I really had to be on my game when answering her questions. She was not only contemplating life, but her spark was coming back. She also became much more receptive to visits from family and friends. They made comments about how mature and outgoing she was becoming. She was literally healing from the inside out.
I often wondered if it was her that had the issues at the beginning or us? Maybe she was always stuck in the middle and she just needed a little extra TLC? As traumatic as it was, I feel that the spiral fracture and 10 weeks being confined to a hospital bed might have been one of the best things that ever happened to her and our family.