He also arrived opinionated, passionate, and joyful. I've never seen someone as capable of just overflowing joy.
He also was certainly opinionated enough to make his needs known, in no uncertain terms. If he didn't have a strong need, he was easy and pleasant - so he wasn't really a 'high needs' child, more like a 'if I need it I NEED it' child. He slept early and long (5 hours at 5 weeks, 6 hours at 6 weeks... the only child like that I got, mind).
Friends of ours noted that he had the ideal personality for a middle child - sunny, joyful, but not exactly likely to blend into the background and become invisible. And as we discovered when we once tried ignoring him in an attempt to manage a tantrum, absolutely intolerant of being ignored. (That attempt was a total disaster - nothing like starting with an angry frustrated overtired child and ending up with an angry frustrated infuriated terrified resentful overtired child...)
And beautiful, too. Green eyes, blond hair, pink cheeks, long lashes. Seriously beautiful baby, photogenic, handsome as he got older. Funny, smart, engaging, social. Yeah, he had what it would take to hold his own against a younger sibling.
And then it turned out to be twins. Girl twins, at that.
That, he wasn't quite prepared for - there are just so many issues to be handled with two 3 month olds, two 9 month olds, two toddlers, two preschoolers... he worked to hold his own, but it is hard.
And we've worked to hold his position, too. Make him feel that we're aware of him, that he is important, that he isn't just vanishing in the shadow between the bright lights of cute girls and the bright lights of much elder brother. He has his activity of his choosing (horseback riding, at which he does very well), he has dates with us, he gets his turn to lead, he has chores that are (as he prefers) positions of honor (feeding the cat - HIS cat, serving the pancakes when we have pancakes for breakfast), many little ways we try to help make it clear to everyone in the family that he isn't second best, he's Mr. B. Our only Mr. B. The best and most perfect him we could ever have.
And still. We still end up with bad days, and with a load of many issues carried together (a challenge of his integrity regarding how a very pretty loose button got home from the fabric store, a conflict with his cousin while she was babysitting - which was handled poorly by her, remorse over yelling at me when he was angry two days earlier), the whiff of 'our attention is sucked up by two preschoolers, and oh, Mr. G, good job on the band concert, that was GREAT work!'... well, he collapsed in despair and misery. Confessed that he'd been unsure what to do with the cardless button he'd discovered and that he'd been afraid to ask me what to do with it so he'd put it in his pocket (he knew I was trying to focus on the buttons I needed to get for his and his brother's vests for an upcoming wedding), that he felt angry and violated by his cousin's reaction to his (admittedly overwhelming) wounded weeping at leaving his collected rocks behind on a walk (sigh), he was deeply sorry and remorseful and apologetic over yelling at me (though I'd totally forgotten it had even happened), .... and. And he was feeling invisible in the midst of everyone else.
One of those kind of days.
And I remember those days, because my little brother was the golden child - and he was truly a golden child. He was blond hair and blue eyes and gentle nature and kindness shining out so bright it was like he was lit from within. He was intelligent, charming, engaging, and while he didn't realize it for a long time, quite talented as well. Drove me NUTS.
Above me were my older brother (smart, physically adept, passionate, dramatic, and nearly black curls with dark eyes and skin), the next sister (smart and funny, fierce, talented, musical, artistic, hazel eyes and dark skin and long dark hair with curls), and the next sister (whip smart, artistic, physically talented, musical, again with the skin (though lighter), straight dark hair, dramatic features), and the next sister (prodigal returning, blond curly hair and blue eyes, so much older and more sophisticated)...
And there was me. Mouse brown hair (had been blonde, wasn't anymore, wasn't yet dark brown, either), freckles (FRECKLES! The affront!), and ... well, as far as I was concerned, I was the dumbest of the lot (therefore to my mind stupid, which is kind of funny in retrospect), my hair had a weird spiral thing that meant that it turned under on one side and out on the other (stupid AND weird looking), and I had glasses (funny, I didn't much notice my next up sister had glasses, as did my big brother), and I was shy (or rather, so intensely defended that I couldn't express my extroversion - shy extrovert, now there's a particular hell I don't want to revisit!).
So, yeah, invisible? For a long time, that was me. When Mr. B started saying he felt invisible, well, ouch. Yes, I do know how that feels. And I don't want you to feel that way.
But how does one explain to a broken-hearted, emotionally wrung-out six year old how essential he is in the family?
I already knew. It was how I'd thought of him from the time the girls were born. I'd just never really articulated it to him.
He is the fulcrum. The hinge point, the center. To one side, the elder brother. To the other, his sisters. With seven years between the top and the bottom, it would be a long way to bridge, either way. But with that single person in the middle, there's a step up, and a step down, that they can navigate to the other end. With him in the middle, G can understand younger - B is close enough to understand, and then to extrapolate beyond. And the same upward - B is the older brother who is closer to them, who is where they can see and understand, and then G is that one beyond.
B has learned about physics in school (Montessori starts with simple machines in preschool), and so he knew 'lever' and 'fulcrum'. He knew that without the fulcrum, the see-saw is just a flat board that doesn't move. He understood when I said that people may notice and run to the ends of the see-saw, they SEE those points in motion... but without that center, that point where the motion begins, neither end moves.
As I described the value of that middle position, his body language changed. His despairing flop firmed into an upright position, his downcast gaze came up to full eye contact, his hands went from limp to engaged. He gestured and gesticulated, explaining back to me the purpose of the fulcrum, the point that gives power to either end, that can be nearly at either end of the lever, or in the middle, that makes all the movement possible.
And that's really what happens. Yes, we'd find some other dynamic without a middle child, with just two end points (or two on one side and one on the other), with a large gap, or a small one. But this is the dynamic we have - four years of gap on one side, three years on the other. Mr. B plays 'up' the age range, linking up with G in imagination and exploration, both leader and follower, collaborator and editor of their adventures. And Mr. B plays 'down' the age range, being leader and guide and coach to his sisters, as well as tossing aside his 'I'm big' persona and joining in their silliness and simpler imagination play without a hint of embarrassment or self-consciousness. He moves up the scale, and down. He joins the ends, he loops himself around each end point and engages them as the dynamic middle.
This morning, he is back to himself, back to surety and confidence, back to knowing he is unique and special, irreplaceable, essential. Fulcrum child.
(Fulcrum child also got Snickers the lazy elderly school horse not only into a sustained trot, but also into an unexpected canter across the entire ring this morning... for a change, he got out of his lesson with some sweat in his hair, and not just from the heat.)
(photo at top is about 4 months, just as he cut his first tooth. photo at bottom is him in a horse show - a couple years ago. I haven't got the pics from this year's horse show yet, and nada from today's lesson though I did take pictures. I've misplaced the card reader, sigh.)