Sharing is a concept I was born knowing how to do. It didn’t have to be taught or explained. I knew how to do it perfectly because since day one. I had to. My brother is four years older; he had to learn to share, while it must not have been easy for him, there isn’t a time I remember where he didn’t do it just as I did. Until later on. When I noticed that without realizing it, he still took more than his fair share. To be quite honest that’s also not fair for me to say. Because I don’t even think he realized he was doing it. He simply just asked for what he needed and he got it.
I on the other hand was quieter about my needs. Not feeling the need to be so vocal about it, at least at first. For the first nine years, I knew how to get my share without really needing to ask for it.
During my year of Pre-K, I got out of school a few hours before my brother. That was my time. Mom would pick me up, maybe we’d stop at the bodega, but that didn’t happen often without my brother because “it wouldn’t be fair,” she’d say.
Other times we’d go to Key Foods to get things for dinner and I’d be able to convince mom I needed to have the little apple pie in the red and white box by the register. Other days we’d go straight home, have lunch and spend time together.
Those were my favorite days. I can still picture every detail of those days so vividly. After lunch she’d cut up an apricot for me and place it in a cereal bowl. I’d take the bowl and plop myself on the floor in front of the TV. It was always around 1 or 2PM, which meant novella time. She’d grab the remote and put on one of her soap operas. The ones where someone is cheating on someone, a guy gets smacked by some women who just couldn’t believe he did whatever it is he did. The type of show that would leave her crying, gasping or simply shaking her head.
After my apricot I’d put the bowl in the sink, find a toy or my CD player, a blanket and make myself comfortable under my dad’s school teacher desk. From my spot I’d watch and listen to her. I would soak in time where it was just us.
During those years I was having nightmares way more often than I had liked. Sleeping was hard even with sharing a room with my brother. He didn’t always like when I’d climb to his top bunk because I was scared. So I’d get mom. Always starting with my soft little voice calling out her name. I’d do that a few times hoping she would answer. Sometimes it would be dad who answers, “What Brittany?” To which I’d always answer, “I’m calling mom.” He would then wake her and she come to me.
Other times I had to climb out of my bottom bunk, tip toeing carefully with every step to make sure I avoided all the squeaky spots on the floor, to the living room to get her. Once there, “Mom I had a bad dream again.” To which she would – without a word – get up, grab me by shoulders and lead me back to my room where she would lay in bed with me. She started to add a part into our nightly prayer about my bad dreams, which I modified to “dear god please please please please please don’t let me have any any any any bad dreams.” They were that bad, but she helped. Eventually the bad dreams stopped and so did mom sleeping in my bed.
By then I was no longer the end cap. I was moved to the middle. I was nine when my younger brother was born. I wasn’t thrilled when I found out. I actually spent those long nine months pretty angry at my parents. It wasn’t until he was placed in his crib and I climbed into it when it was just him and I alone. I realized he wasn’t the enemy. Didn’t hurt that he was pretty dang cute.
One thing that stayed was my unhappiness about the shift in the family. Those feelings remained the same for way longer than it should have. I just had no time. In fact I had less. Her time was split four ways. And to me it seemed like I had the smaller portion.
When you’re the middle child, you hear all the jokes about being the middle. While the jokes are quite funny, they are true. Being the middle means the oldest is doing something for the first time that hasn’t happened before. It’s new to parents. And the youngest is doing something for the first that will be their last ‘first time’ to experience as parents.
They were so focused on making sure the first has all he needed and focusing on the youngest because he was the youngest. Which leaves the middle just there. Doing nothing really new, and nothing for the last time. But when you’re the middle who is independent, stable and quiet, there is an added challenge. Because you’ve got it. You can do it on your own. You don’t need the help. The others do and you don’t. So you get the leftover time, which there never is any of.
As I got older, I learned to suck it up. It is what is is. Turns out I really grew to appreciate it. Because while attention was focused on the other two, I was left to do my own thing. The rules still applied, but they weren’t reinforced as they were with the boys. While they were so focused on making sure the oldest would follow the rules and the constant battle when he broken them started; the youngest was being taught them for the first time.
There I was in the middle knowing what I could and could not get away with, while pushing the boundaries. A lot was over looked and I knew it was.
I enjoyed my time to myself, but I also craved more of hers. As the only girl surround by boys you want more time with your mom. So much was changing that as a girl it’s confusing and overwhelming. But they were always around. The boys took over every inch of space between us. I’d find my moments here or there, but it wasn’t enough. As a preteen and teenage girl, I wanted to go shopping with mom. Not with a gaggle of boys trailing behind. I was always very aware of the trailing they were all doing as I looked for clothes.
I couldn’t focus when mom would point something out because I was hyper aware of the crowd we had, and I was over it. No longer wanting to deal with it I’d say, “I don’t like anything, we can go.” I’d hear the sigh of relief from the boys and think, ‘well if it weren’t for you being here I wouldn’t have this problem.’ But they were there, always have been and always will be. Never just me and her. They were always there. Always.
It wasn’t till a few years later when I’d be able to get her alone for simple things. In those times it was just us, no boys. It would always make me think about the years where I would silently wish the boys away for the day. I think I brought it up once, the answer I got was: well what were the boys suppose to do. How about stay home with dad? Let us – just girls – do something. Leave them behind. Tell them we don’t need to do everything together.
As I think more about it, I know they truly never understood. Because my parents are not the middles. They are not the only one of their gender in their sibling group. They didn’t know what it meant to be the middle and the only. To share indefinitely.