I am what they call a true middle child. I am the second of three kids with an older sister and a younger brother. If you aren’t a middle child, let me give you some insight into what it’s like.
When my family dropped off my sister to begin her freshman year of college, there was much weeping, wailing and depression. Thirty minutes after driving away from the dorm, my dad decided to turn around and go back to campus because he felt like the first goodbye was too rushed.
When my younger brother left for college, it symbolized the arrival of my parent’s empty nest. Again, with the weeping. The crying. The watery eyes in the weeks and months leading up his inevitable departure.
When I went to college, the tone was something like, “Oh, you plan on leaving home? Okay. Let us know the day we need to be available to help with that.”
I may be slightly exaggerating, but mark my words, people. Middle child syndrome is a real thing.
Call it birth order, temperament, or the perfect storm of a number of factors, but for some of us, life can straight up feel like it is out to get us. Like we’re the butt of the joke and the victim in every circumstance. We are glass half empty people. (We’re a lot of fun to be around.)
I spent a lot of my growing up and (too much) of my adulthood this way, trying really hard to forgive the heartless people in my life who could not understand the plight of being me. I’ve read half a dozen books on why to forgive and how to forgive, until it finally hit me one day. What, exactly, was I trying to forgive?
The fact that my parents were happily married and very present during my growing up years?
That as a kid, my family went to the beach every August and the mountains every September?
That I went to great schools, was encouraged, believed in and cheered for, no matter what I did?
Suddenly, the forgiveness books seemed kind of silly, especially when I came across this idea:
Sometimes you need to forgive something done to you. And sometimes, you just need to get over it. In other words, there are legitimate things to forgive. And then there are the perceived offenses that weren’t offenses at all, things you simply need to be a grown up about—like if you were born a middle child, for instance. You don’t forgive them, because they aren’t forgivable. They just are. So, for your own mental health you do what you need to do. You move on.
This may be one of the greatest gifts we give our kids: the push, the admonition, the instructive to get over the things in life not worth getting hung up on.
“He said my picture of a dog doesn’t really look like a dog and that really hurt my feelings.”
You need to get over it.
“He kind of bumped me when he was running past me, and it hurt my elbow.”
You need to get over it.
“You’re being mean because you said I couldn’t have dessert if I disobeyed.”
You need to get over it.
Call me heartless, but I lived too much of my life too sensitive to imagined injustices and perceived offenses, to know it’s a miserable way to live. Sure, there are real things to forgive, but teaching our kids the art of “shaking off” the menial stuff, of refusing to make an issue out of a non-issue, of not manufacturing hurt feelings over a harmless exchange, is just as valuable as the art of forgiving the big stuff, the actual issue and the legitimately hurtful exchange.
Life is too short to work up the emotional energy to forgive something that’s better just moving past.
I wish I had learned this earlier. I wish I had better understood that living life constantly trying to forgive is actually exhausting, and learning instead to take things in stride, to believe the best, to roll with the punches, to laugh more at myself, is far healthier.
March 9 was National Get Over It Day. Or, as I like to call it, Recovering Middle Child Syndrome Day. If you have something to get over, the good news is, you can wait almost an entire year before you HAVE to let it go. The idea behind this day is that it gives us the chance to practice ourselves—and teach our kids to practice—the value in moving on. In not holding grudges. In having a sense of humor about life. In getting over ourselves—and our birth order. It’s a day we practice and teach the art of believing, “The world is not about you or out to get you. Now act accordingly.”
And I, for one, can’t wait. Because I think if we do this well as parents, and our kids learn to do this well now, the quality of family life improves. You laugh more. You love better. And you get really good at forgiving the worthwhile stuff.
So today, ask yourself, “What do I need to get over?” Ask your kids. Ask the people you care about the most. And maybe decide you won’t wait until next March 9th to take some action. Do it today. Because getting over it now, will do our heart, your spirit and your mind a favor, later.