Number Two hasn't had it easy this past year or so. In September last year, within the space of a week, he got a new baby brother and saw his older brother head off to big school, leaving him behind in kindergarten. He has mostly put on a brave face, kept a stiff upper lip and just gotten on with being the middle child. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for that.
My many plans to take time out to spend just with him have seldom come to fruition. Either he wants his brothers to come along or the plans fall through because of a lack of someone to look after the other two. Recently some cracks are beginning to show in his brave facade and I have been feeling more and more guilty for not being able to make time for him.
Being a middle child myself, I know exactly how he feels. He knows that I am busy with the other two (keeping the toddler out of harm's way and helping the schoolboy at his homework) and that I am not ignoring him. But constantly being told "Not now", "in a minute" and "I'll get to you as soon as I can" isn't good for him.
I hate to admit it but the wheel that squeaks the loudest gets the oil, and he doesn't squeak. He has kept turning reliably. Until now. So I've begun a maintenance program for him.
The best I have been able to do is to squeeze in some time in the evenings, when Number Three is asleep and Number One is entertaining himself. Even if it has only been helping Number Two get ready for bed and listening to his ideas and stories from the day, I notice it has helped. He's happier in himself. He thrives on the attention. The more we use the few minutes we have, the more we seem to find little more time just for us.
Another thing I've found is that telling him we are going to do an activity which he suggested or which revolves around him lifts his spirits a lot. Last week, for example, we went to the kindergarten latern-making afternoon. We had to bring Number Three with us, but he stayed strapped into the buggy beside us while Number Two and I cut and glued and chatted.
Yesterday we went to football practice for the first time. Both his older and younger brother had to come along. But he was so pleased that he was the main man. Every so often he would look up from training to smile and wave to me and his brothers where we stood and watched.
This afternoon we had a bit of quiet time while Number One was visiting a friend and Number Three played by our feet. We browsed the toy cataolgues and he started his Santa list.
After bedtime, as I was halfway down the stairs, he called me to come back. As I peered round the doorway he blew me a kiss. I think we're slowly finding our way out of the middle.