Gideon was upset. Lydia had been given a rare opportunity to sit on her mother’s lap in the old rocking chair in the corner where they had spent so many comforting days long ago when the world was more simple. More quiet. Less complicated. And Gideon was upset. He stood at the base of the chair tugging at Lydia’s pink night shirt and wailed in his practiced way.

Mother and Lydia ignored him for as long as possible, but finally they gave in. Lydia agreeably climbed down and softly helped her brother climb up onto his mother’s lap.

I watched from across the room.

“Lydia,” I called, motioning with my arms. “Lydia, come here and you can sit with me on the couch.” She ran at me and I plucked her from the air, bringing her to rest like a small pink balloon in my lap. I brushed the hair out of her eyes while she smiled up at me with a mixture of joy and disappointment.

“I’m sorry, Lydia.”

“I know,” she said quietly. “It’s okay.”

Her mother added. “Yes, but it must be so hard to be the middle child.”

At that moment Clara came wandering in from the kitchen filling a small purse full of random objects off the floor. “Yeah, tell me about it.” she said casually. “It’s really REALLY hard.” She picked up a container of floss, bit it, and then placed it in her bag.

“No,” her mother clarified. “We mean, Lydia.”

Clara looked up from her scavenger hunt. “What? I’M the middle child!”

Her mother and I shared a confused look. “That’s ridiculous Clara, you are not the middle child. Lydia is the middle child because she is stuck between you and Gideon. You are not in the middle.”

She stood her ground, “Yes I am the middle child.” She ran a hand through her long dark hair. “I am stuck between the two of you grown ups.” She pointed at her mother and I. “And the two of them.” She pointed at her little brother and sister. “And that’s not easy. It’s really hard. Two and two and I’m in the middle with no one but myself.” She climbed under a table and triumphantly came out the other side holding a glow stick. She stuffed it in her bag and crawled away.

“Sounds awful,” her mother replied turning her attention back to the little boy that had already lost interest in her lap and was now struggling to get down.

With a sigh, I held Lydia a little tighter and repeated softly in her ear, “I’m so sorry, Lydia. I’m so sorry. It must be hard to be the middle child…”