Sometimes, I feel guilty that I perpetuate middle child syndrome. My older two kids command attention, as teens often do, and my nursery schooler literally demands attention. This leaves my #3 often stuck, well, in the middle. At 10 years old she's independent enough to mostly fend for herself and quiet enough to get lost in the shuffle. She's fun and funny, often happy to just sit and read a quiet book or hang out on the laptop. It's easy through the shuffle of life to miss out on opportunities to engage only her. I have tried hard, middle child or not, to do my best to pay attention to those times that I'm not doing my part.
After reading a fab idea on Facebook (thanks Risa!) I decided to begin a book club with my #3. Once a month my daughter and I would read the same book. We would then head out to a fancy sushi lunch, complete with dessert, of course, to discuss our thoughts on the books. I was really excited about it and more importantly, so was my daughter!
Choosing a book recommended by a few fellow moms, we began "Wonder" by RJ Palacio. First, my daughter read it. She said it was really good and really sad. But, we agreed not to discuss any details until our lunch. She brought the book to me that night. So, I hunkered down with a cup of tea to read. Fifteen pages in, I was laughing and near tears at the very same time. What a beautifully written, funny, and yes, sad book.
It was so interesting to see my daughter checking in with me to see that I was still reading it. I think she figured I would never actually finish a 'fifth grade' book. It reminded me of years back when my oldest and I were gobbling up pages upon pages of Harry Potter together in a race to the finish. It was great bonding time and really fun. I suddenly realized it had been too long since I had read the same books as my child. It not only encourages them to read, but because tween and teens often connect so little with their parents, it really gives you something positive to talk about. Plus, you get to read really great books!
Upon finishing the book - a few days later than my daughter did (life gets in the way of curling up with a good book for a mom) - we arranged our lunch date. My other kids are a little jealous of our outing, but it is a good jealous - encouraging other book club buddies for the future.
Validating a good read with your child, seeing her eyes light up and laughing at the same parts of a story lead to wonderful conversations about life, relationships, peer pressure and fitting in. I often try to start up casual talks with my kids about life issues, but it's not always so seamless. I have found the best way to engage older children is to do something they like to do and they tend to open up easily.
As a mom we often get wrapped up in our bigger kids with their bigger problems or our smaller kids with their cute (and frustrating!) ways. It's imperative to not feed into that middle child syndrome and take each child out separately to remind them we still love and enjoy them, individually.
We're looking for recommendations for our next read . . . suggestions?
Sara Kutliroff is a freelance writer and blogger trying not to forget the "me” in mommy.
See more of Sara's stories here.