Pecking Order by
(55 Stories)

Prompted By Birth Order

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I remember my mother proudly pushing the twins in a double-stroller, Ricky and I walking behind. Passersby would spot the twins and literally stop us in our tracks to fuss and fawn over them, to coddle and coo, and then sometimes, as an afterthought, think to mention that oh, Ricky is adorable, too, and aren’t I a pretty little thing. Who knows where Larry was…by then he’d already begun to drift.

I was one of five children growing up. Larry was about four years older than I was, Ricky four years younger, and Keith and Kevin six years younger. So in our family hierarchy, Ricky and I shared billing as middle children.

I was one of five children growing up. Larry was about four years older than I was, Ricky four years younger, and Keith and Kevin six years younger. So in our family hierarchy, Ricky and I shared billing as middle children.

Googled, copied and pasted:

Here are the six traits that ALL middle children share:

  • * You’re a pro at keeping the peace.
  • * You find creative ways to get attention.
  • * You’ve been known to be a tad melodramatic.
  • * You’ve always been independent.
  • * You know the importance of alone time.
  • * You have an easy time making friends.

Notice the word ALL. My emphasis, but no ambiguity there. And you know what? Those six traits might as well be bespoke…tailor made to fit me to a T.  ✓x 6. But take that same bullet list and apply it to Ricky? Not one ✓.

But then there’s this, also Googled, copied and pasted:

             “Middle child syndrome is the belief that middle children are excluded, ignored, or even outright neglected because of their birth order.”

I didn’t really feel that way, no more than any child who vies for parental attention. But that would be Ricky. I would tell you more about Ricky’s version of being the middle child but I can’t ask him for that because he has severed relations with the family, and none of us knows why. Maybe that alone speaks volumes.

So do I agree with the stereotypes? Yes, and no.

Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: funny, moving, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    In this compact story, you have told us so much. Who can vie for attention with twins (who are also the youngest)? You’ve given us THE textbook definition of middle child, which you say fits you to a “T”, but not your brother Ricky, who is now estranged from the family; another form of middle child syndrome? And your much older brother is more or less out of the picture (in the Featured photo – literally). Complicated family dynamics for sure, as your writing has thoughtfully and carefully revealed over the many months you’ve shared yourself with us. But I, for one, look forward to what comes next from your creative and artistic nature.

  2. Marian says:

    It was revealing to see the photos of the family, Barb, and how you fit the middle child personality while your brother severed ties. There is a lot of mystery in family dynamics, and your spare writing shows that beautifully.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Barb, I mentioned this in my comment to Suzy. My middle child adored Judy Blume’s book The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo. Do you know it? We also refer to our grandkids who are neither the youngest nor the oldest as “the middles.” The get along the best of the bunch. The traits you cite are great one for navigating life. Too bad you had twins taking all of the baby attention from you. That must have been tough.

    • I love “the middles,” Laurie. And because “the twins” (as we still call them) are such great kids to this day, that part was actually never tough. Being a daughter to a mother who much preferred sons was the tough part!

  4. Suzy says:

    Barb, I’m so glad I talked you into writing this story! It is brief, but so powerful and insightful! Love the pictures too! They are very telling. Larry looks like he doesn’t want to be there in the one of all five of you, and in the other he managed not to be. And you are so adorable! I’m sad that your mother preferred her sons. You should have been part of my family, we didn’t like boys at all!

    • Aw, what a wonderful comment! It was when I was writing to you about not feeling right writing about my brother Ricky that the idea for the story suddenly began to take form. And then I just happened to have the perfect photos practically at arm’s length. Um, is it too late to be part of your family — I missed not having a sister!

  5. Joe Lowry says:

    I am sorry that your brother severed the family relationship. Most often, that is a loss. I also like your observation that all stereotypes do not always apply. That is a good lesson that everyone needs to learn.

  6. BB, what a complicated thing is family. The loss of Larry and then the estrangement of Ricky was obviously so painful.

    I have a cousin just a few years younger than I who lives only a dozen blocks away. Many years ago when we were both in our 30s inexplicably she stopped speaking to me.

    I’ve written to her several times over the years asking why, and never have gotten an answer. It still hurts.

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