I’m sitting in a coffee shop pretending to do homework and watching the post-church crowd. A family with three daughters enters. The three girls are maybe 6, 4, and 2. They have matching French braids and a determined air. The reason for the air becomes apparent once their parents allow them to pick a spot to sit. They choose a table with a bench sitting three on one side facing two chairs.
“I’m going to sit here, and Mommy and Daddy will sit on either side of me,” announces the eldest, choosing the bench while her less perceptive sisters pick chairs.
Instantly, the youngest switches spots to sit beside her.
“No!” exclaims the oldest, moving to the other side of the table to sit by the middle child. She eyes her sister with disapproval. “You’re so lucky,” she says. “You get to sit between Mommy and Daddy.”
The middle child switches spots. Now two of them are on the bench side and one is sitting on a chair. Then the eldest gets up to sit on the bench. She announces that the three of them will face their parents, making it all fair.
The youngest shouts that she wants to sit by Mommy. This brings Mommy over. She is settled on a chair. The youngest is desolate. She moves from the bench. This, however, upsets the careful balance. One parent’s side has been chosen. Now the debate becomes who will sit by Daddy.
The eldest looks with calculation at her sisters, clearly still trying to figure out how to sit between her parents. She tries the good old shoving technique. Her Mother reprimands her. She settles to pout. Daddy comes over. All three voices raise demanding he sit by them.
In the end it is the middle child who sacrifices her wish. She offers to move to a chair so that the eldest and youngest can sit by Daddy. Mommy moves a chair to the side of the table so she can be flanked by two. Peace momentarily settles.
The entire time I sit the corner trying not to laugh too loudly because I’m 98% certain this exact scenario played out many times with my siblings and me. Kudos to the middle children who keep the peace!