I was the middle child in an Hispanic family, the one wedged between the oldest son and the baby daughter. A lot was excused from an oldest son, and who could resist the cuteness of a baby sister?
Me? I was the proverbial chopped liver – lonely and abused.
I was also the oldest daughter in an Hispanic family. I was expected to learn how to do household chores and learn how to cook. I was the little mama, the one who helps with the younger siblings. Oh yay!
My parents had high expectations for all of us. Both of them were highly intelligent, and they suspected the same from us, so they demanded nothing less than A’s in school. They sometimes overlooked my brother’s B’s (cabeza dura), but I was hounded and condemned to hours of study if I dared to bring home anything less than a straight A.
My parents, especially my mother, didn’t care where or when she scolded me. Often it was out in public – in front of my friends or classmates, loud enough for everyone to hear and see. A proud and independent child, I resented being corrected in public. It only increased my rebellion and determination to get out of there as soon as I could.
I decided I would never have children. But I did – three of my own.
What did I learn from my upbringing?
One, regardless of birth order and how easily it can be to play favorites, don’t. Give time and be fair and equal to all the children. All three of mine had equal amounts of responsibilities but I also shared my time with each of them.
Two, it is okay to have expectations from each one. An education is non-negotiable. So is going to church. I tried to impress on my three that school is not just a social hangout; we also want a good transcript and a diploma. If A’s were not accessible, then a passing grade would do (but I knew what to expect from them).
Three, I never corrected them out in public. We waited until we were in private – our home, the car, or the closest public rest room. If they hoped and prayed I would forget by the time we got to some place private, their prayer was never granted.
I hated being a middle child. I hated being ignored except for when it came to chores or responsibilities. It broke my heart to see my parents lavish attention on my brothers and sisters and treat me less. Because of it, I am aware of when it happens to others.