DEAR ABBY: Like "Middle Child in Hackensack, N.J." (Nov. 4), I am a middle child. I have an older brother and a younger sister, and I, too, felt my siblings were favored.
When I was younger, it seemed I was blamed for everything and got nothing from my parents. I am 20 now, and realize that my parents actually gave me a lot.
Because they never spent the money on me that they did on my siblings, I have worked since I was 16 to get what I want, and I've learned how to manage my money. I understand sharing better than they do because I've always had to let my little sister use and borrow my things. I have also learned to accept that nothing comes without hard work, and that the best of everything isn't always the most expensive.
"Middle Child" is not alone. I believe many parents with three kids act this way, although not consciously. Don't resent your family members for this because they do love and care about you. Learn what you can from it. Those lessons will help you more in the long run than being spoiled now will. -- HAPPY IN THE MIDDLE
DEAR HAPPY: You are a thoughtful, wise and mature 20-year-old, and I thank you for your letter. I advised "Middle Child" that she should also turn her frustration into an effort to excel at something -- to find validation from within her family and outside it. Read on for comments from other middle children:
DEAR ABBY: Some parents do favor one child over another, but most try hard not to let it affect how they treat their children. That girl's parents may not realize they are acting differently. I think she should have a non-confrontational private talk with her parents and express her feelings to them. They may be shocked to hear she feels this way.
As a child, I often felt disregarded. This was news to my parents, and we all learned to readjust how we dealt with each other. That was almost 30 years ago, and it made a huge difference. -- SIBLING IN LAUREL, MD.
DEAR ABBY: I am a middle child. Both my siblings were treated better by my mother than I was. Dad tried to make up some of the difference, and it is no surprise that I am closer to him than either of my siblings.
The girl in Hackensack should speak to her school counselor or her religious adviser. Because of my situation I now have a very close relationship with a woman my mother's age, and she has filled in a lot of the gaps left by my mom. Confiding in a close relative can also be a comfort.
Finding someone to talk to makes it a lot easier to get through until you are out on your own. My relationship with my friends has kept me going. And time does help. I'm proof. -- MIDWEST SURVIVOR
DEAR ABBY: I disagree with some of your advice to "Middle Child." Sadly, it's not uncommon for parents to get so wrapped up in daily life that they fail to meet their children's emotional needs. Too many young girls already believe that they must constantly earn the approval of others in order to succeed, and it can easily become a recipe for lifelong low self-esteem. "Middle Child" needs to learn some self-validation skills and to understand that she already has value as a worthwhile human being because of who she is right now. -- WALKED THAT ROAD
DEAR ABBY: Here's my theory about middle children. Visualize a sandwich. The outer layers are two slices of simple bread, and the inner layer is what gives flavor to the sandwich. Without the filling, the sandwich would be boring and tasteless. YOU are the "spice" that makes life fun and yummy. I wouldn't give up my middle spot in the family for anything! -- LAURA IN SAN LUIS OBISPO