The middle child

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brian_clareyby Brian Clarey

The middle child is invisible — or at least he thinks he is. And sometimes he’s right: Lost in the shuffle of older and younger siblings, a smart middle kid can get away with an awful lot.

But the middle child is also the glue, the bridge between the brothers and sisters and, often, the kids and the parents. The middle child is central to the overall social order of the household, and while his actions may often go unnoticed, his absence is keenly felt.

At least that’s the way it is in my house.

My own middle child recently returned from a few days in Orlando, a school trip that necessitated a day and a half of recovery before emerging from his bedroom, the hem of the pajama pants he favors inching higher up his shins, it seems, every time I look at him these days.

He’s finishing up his last year of middle school, and trying to make a decision that those in my generation were spared: He’s choosing a high school.

When I was a young middle child myself, high school meant one thing: a big, industrial building that smelled like wet paper towels and farts, with pep rallies and big games and winter dances. And that experience is out there for my kid, but he has his sight set on something a little more exclusive than the neighborhood public school.

And let’s just say that this brilliant middle child, the one who coined the term “dirty banana” when he was just 4 years old, perhaps did not put forth his best efforts in the areas which the better schools value, namely his grades, permanent record be damned.

This predicament he finds himself in will be a learning experience one way or the other, a lesson in consequences either good or bad. But the kid is bucking up, responding to the pressure with guile and grace. To answer the challenge, he’s put together his first caper.

It involves an accelerated pace of study in a specialized educational niche, handpicked to cut his odds for attaining a seat at the school of his choice.

And I’ll tell ya, I think the kid can pull it off.

Because the middle child — my middle child — knows when to remain invisible and when it’s time to step into the light. Or at least he’s fronting like he does, which is almost as good.