The Infamous “Middle Child”

With his handsome long cut brown hair and his gorgeously glowing hazel eyes, my little man is nothing short of a prince. His voice is soft and sweet, his laugh always warms my heart. He can be very social, but at times his personality can completely clash with other personalities, like oil and water. Always marching to the beat of his own drum, he likes to stick to routine. When he comes home from school he has a snack, talks to me about his day and then we sit together working on his 10 minutes of reading. He carefully sounds out each word, making sure his pronunciation is correct. He doesn’t like to be wrong. When he makes a mistake, he often takes advice or being corrected as an insult. Whenever he is tired, even if his brothers are still awake, he tells me he is ready for bed.

He’s quite imaginative, rarely needing the same around the clock entertainment that his two brothers often crave. When lying on the floor playing with his matchbox cars or trains, he carefully focuses on what makes the wheels turn. He can be moody and even come off as bossy at times. He can easily become frustrated, his confidence and self esteem tend to go up and down like a roller coaster. He can be very stubborn, intentionally not doing what I tell him to do. At times it almost becomes a game between the two of us. For example, I may repeatedly say, “Mommy and daddy are tired, it’s time to brush your teeth and go to bed.” Or maybe I‘ll say, “Please go help your brothers clean their room!.” Just to get under my skin, he‘ll intentionally move slower, or just sit and do nothing. However, when I say “Fine, don’t go brush you teeth!”, or “Don’t go clean your room, I want it to remain messy, that’s how I like it.”…with an evil grin on his cute little face, he’ll quickly march off to go brush his teeth or clean his room. This unique little boy I speak of is my second born son, Rylan James Catania, aka, the infamous “middle child”.

When my oldest son, Evan, was born, everything he did seemed very challenging to me, most likely because I was a first time dad. Now that I think back though, every stage that my first born son went through seemed very rudimentary. He ate good. He slept though the night by the time he was three months old. He was climbing out of his crib and walking at an early age. He had the typical toddler temper tantrums when he wanted something. He was fully potty trained just before he turned 3 years old. To be honest, there really wasn’t too much to be stressed out about.

Rylan, on the other hand, has resembled an extremely frustrating Rubik‘s Cube since the day he was born. The first sign was the night terrors he had as a baby. Months and months of my little boy waking up in the middle of the night, screaming in a state of panic. My wife and I would always take turns running the graveyard shift. Every night, between 2am and 5am, we’d spend hours singing him songs or rocking him back and forth to the soft sounds of the sprout channel playing on our living room television. Eventually he would calm down and go back to sleep. Rylan finally outgrew his 6 month phase of night terrors. As he began peacefully sleeping throughout the night, I suddenly felt that I had developed a close bond with him.

As time went on, each and every stage Rylan has gone through has always presented me with a new challenge. From his night terrors and being the picky little eater he is, to the long uphill battle with potty training that lasted almost two years, nothing has ever been simple with this child. In all honesty, if Rylan would have been my first child, he also may have been my last child. Fortunately I had already been broken in as a dad by the time Rylan came along. Although he presented me with many new challenges as a father, he helped me develop one of the most important attributes any parent could have. PATIENCE.

Now, at seven years old, Rylan has made drastic improvements over the years. He still has his moments of being difficult on a regular basis, but keeping him active and having occasional one on one time with mom or dad have all played a significant role in helping him with his confidence and self esteem issues. Three years ago if you would have told me that Rylan was still going to be doing karate in 2016 as well as playing his first year of t-ball and flag football, I would have laughed. Over time I’ve witnessed many signs indicating that we’ve definitely had Rylan headed in the right direction, but the reality of it all became official last fall.

During his second flag football game Rylan accidentally knocked heads with another player, which lead to tears. He pulled himself together and finished the game. That was HUGE in itself. At home, later that night, I was sitting on the edge of my bed when Rylan walked into the room. I let him know how great of a job he did in his game earlier that day and how proud I was of him. He looked up at me and quietly said, “You know, that really hurt today dad….at the game….but, I’m not giving up.”

Completely speechless, with my eyes popping out of my head, I had to reach around on the floor to find my jaw! This was groundbreaking for Rylan! Hearing those words come from Rylan almost brought me to tears. Any other time, Rylan would have said he didn‘t want to play ever again. Not only did he finish the game…..he then repeated the words that I had been trying to teach him since he was three years old. “I’M NOT GIVING UP”. Hearing him say those words meant more to me than anything he could ever do on the field. In my book, Rylan had just won the Super Bowl!

Whenever I’m sharing one of my Rylan stories with other parents, I often hear similar responses, like, “Oh, he must be the middle child.” At first I used buy in to everyone’s theory about the infamous “middle child”. As time went by though, I began developing my own way of speaking to Rylan. His emotions and ways of dealing with things runs differently then his brothers. Like any child, he has things about him that he may excel at, and he also has things about him that need improvement. The “middle child” theory just sounds like an excuse for the parents that can’t accept the fact that kids can be different. Instead of always referring to them as, “The Middle Child”, maybe more parents should work on adjusting themselves to their little one’s needs. We all want our kids to grow up well mannered, open minded and with a positive attitude…..but we have to remember, they aren’t supposed to be clones. Their minds work differently. Their emotions work differently. We have to adapt to each child individually. We have to be patient.

At times, his attitude can be like nails on a chalkboard, off-putting to the point that it almost causes me anxiety. On the other hand, his crafty way with big words can suddenly turn a dull evening at the dinner table into a night at the Improv. Whether he’s purposely agitating his family just to get a reaction, or peacefully sitting in his bedroom, playing with legos and quietly singing to himself…..Rylan is always going to be my little box of chocolates. He’s sweet…..but…..you never know what you’re going to get.

Love you for being you little man!

Never Give Up Rylan!

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