Living in a three generational home is exhausting, exasperating, exhilarating, and many times, educational. I can tell you straight up that I have learned more from my wonderful, loving, wacky family members than I could have from an eternity of studying human behavior from outside observation.
The middle child has stumped me for years, however. I just don’t “get” her. The rest of the family says she stymies me because she is so much like me. Well, I take that as a huge compliment, but in all honesty, I don’t remember being so totally unaffected by life.
This kid marches to a different drum. Period. I mean, she’s not even in the band. As a child, she was the one that spent hours communicating with frogs and insects she had captured for the day. Each summer evening, when she realized it was time to free them, she would sob and tenderly let them go, promising them she’d look for them tomorrow. I can understand her finding creatures more interesting than we were, but I don’t remember her sobbing when I took off for a couple of days.
When she was four, she disappeared for a while. We hunted the house top to bottom and just before the 911 call, the nephew’s friend came in and asked what Al was doing sitting outside on the car bumper all by herself, flipping him off. We asked her why she was sitting there doing that and she said because she wasn’t allowed out in the street. I think that was when she realized she could easily get other people in trouble. The niece still blames me for that one.
School doesn’t interest the middle child in the least. She has no fear of failing in school, and little use for the subject matter. I convinced her once to take a couple of minutes out of her busy life to study for a test, and she cracked the book, possibly for the first time this year. I gave her a pop quiz at dinner and she passed with flying colors, but evidently when test time came, she thought it would be funny to mess with the teacher. She answered the question “What are people from Japan called?” with “Japansies”. She wrote “Italics” were people from Italy. I asked her why she did that. She glared at me and said “Because it’s FUNNY.” If she had added “You idiot”, it wouldn’t have surprised me.
It’s impossible to read the middle child. To an unsuspecting outsider, she comes across as shy and well behaved. She can melt the unsuspecting heart with her “sweet” look. Well, caution would be the word that comes to mind. She participated in competition cheering for years as a flier until her coach replaced her with another smaller girl. She carried on like a trooper, but she did let her coach know how she felt about it. She tied her coach’s shoe laces together as they sat on the floor during the next competition.
She is fiercely loyal to her siblings. She caught wind of her older sister having a problem with another high school girl, cornered the girl at a basketball game and quietly said, “If you think you’re going to get to my sister, think again. You’re going to have to get through me first.” She was eight. She constantly torments the little guy, sets him up for punishment time and time again, and blames him for everything from wearing her make-up to global warming. Should he end up exiled to his room for any reason, however, it is the middle child who smuggles snacks to him and shoves her ipod under the door.
The middle child is a challenge, to say the least. She is foul tempered and funny, outwardly selfish and secretively generous, and always up for a good fight. She sings like an angel, snarls like fisher cat, and I doubt she will ever completely grow up. Or at least I hope not. Her innocence and naiveté, which we know is, at advantageous times, contrived, is a large part of her charm. Now if we could just get her to focus on something, like say, her responsibilities in life, we’d be happy. We’re not too worried just yet, though. She’s following her instincts right now, which began sixteen years ago. She arrived ass-end-to and immediately peed on the doctor.