I am a youngest child who grew up more like an only because I have two brothers who are 11 and 13 years older than me. I myself have three children; the older two are two years apart and then the youngest came along just 3 years later, so birth order has always been a constant topic of discussion (and sometimes even argument) in our house. “She can’t do anything wrong because she’s the oldest and you think she’s perfect. He gets away with everything because he’s the baby and you feel sorry for him.” These are the laments of my middle child, and he backs them up with scientific data whenever possible, and that happens to be quite often. Middle Child Syndrome suggests that middles feel neglected and unable to fit in, which causes them to become resentful, lack ambition, and have a negative outlook on life. “These are documented facts,” he tells me. “You can look them up.” And so I finally did and while I found that my middle child is correct in saying that there are mountains of evidence to substantiate his claims, I’d like to share my personal point of view as a parent.
When your firstborn child comes along, it is true that you are completely starstruck by this new little being who has come to inhabit your house. You marvel at everything, which is understandable because it’s all brand new and amazing and all those kinds of things. You are also terrified. And just a bit overprotective. NO, the baby cannot take a flying leap off the bed when she hasn’t even learned to pick her head up yet. There’s no need to put all those pillows around her. When the second child comes along, it’s still an amazing thing, but the initial wonder of all of it has faded some. You’re now an old pro and so you relax a bit more, and you don’t worry as much. As your new little one grows, you begin to rely on the sibling relationship more and more. After all, the first child required your undivided focus, but the second has your attention and the very profound interest of his or her older brother or sister. Now if a third child arrives on the scene… well, honestly, you’re just overwhelmed. Responsibilities don’t triple, they increase by geometric proportions. Two are manageable; you have two hands and two parents (usually), but three are a bit like opening a bag of marbles. They go everywhere, especially when they are all under the age of six, and sometimes there just aren’t enough hands to grab them or feet to catch them. So I have to confess that the impact of birth order is often the last thing on your mind. Survival, however, is high up on the list.
You’ll notice that I’ve started this birth order series of Friday Musings with my middle child. That’s intentional, of course, and as it should be. He does deserve to come first once in a while. Oh, the trouble I am going to get into get into for that statement. I may not return on Monday, just saying. My middle is a wonderful human being who has overcome all the pain and suffering I inflicted upon him because of his position in between the other two. And he will be the first to say that he accomplished that all on his own. He is resourceful, independent (at times), and an excellent negotiator between others in crisis, not necessarily when he’s involved. That’s a different story. He is a team builder because he understands the value of working with others, of having to share, and of never being the only one in situations while growing up. This has made him an amazing teacher and coach. He was probably among the top five most difficult babies ever recorded in human history, so when he becomes a father in June I can only hope that karma is a real thing. He is a social creature who loves being around his family and friends, and he is fiercely loyal to both. He lives four houses away and I see him almost everyday, and I couldn’t be happier. He is a traditionalist with an interest in older things like houses, furniture, and even music, but quirky things have always caught his eye too, which never ceases to make me smile. He’s artistic and emotional, and when he is happy the sun comes out. When is upset or angry, it can feel like it’s been raining for days. He is who he is because he grew up as the middle child, and there’s not very much that I’d change about him. Well, maybe a few things… but I love him, life would never have been the same without him, and I’m very proud of him. Insert smiley emojis here and a few hearts.
For his cocktail, I went with a variation of a traditional Manhatten, made with Cooper River Distillers rye whiskey and Carpano Antica sweet vermouth. I added in a Belgian liqueur called Mandarine Napoléon that he recently discovered on a shelf in our local liquor store. He actually called me on the phone to tell me about it. It’s a wonderful blend of cognac, Sicilian mandarin oranges, spices, and herbs and is said to have been a favorite of Napoléon Bonaparte. His hat is on the label and that’s what piqued my son’s interest. He was always a Bonaparte fan, just one of those quirky things I mentioned earlier… I finished the drink off with DRAM Citrus Medica bitters which are my go to replacement for orange bitters in most cocktails I make, but you already know that. The end result was a drink that was rich and smooth, with some deep layers, and a very bright finish because of the subtle orange flavor that’s definitely not overly sweet. It suited my middle child perfectly. With love Zachary.
Starting in the Middle
Place all the ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice until very cold. Strain and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Express a mandarin orange peel over the top if you can find one. If not just use a regular orange. Garnish with a mandarin orange rose. Enjoy!