by Sam Harrington

Although “Middle Child Syndrome” isn’t recognized as an official medical diagnosis, research on the topic is so abundant, it has made birth order and how it affects personality and development a hot topic. I am a middle child. Studies suggest that my spot within my family puts me at a huge disadvantage, since the first-born is typically the overachiever and the last born gets to enjoy the role of being the “baby.” According to the typical stereotype of the middle child, I was destined to be insecure, rebellious and lacking ambition. Well, my story is not typical, and my unique journey has influenced my own approach to exceeding expectations and breaking the “middle child” mold.

Growing up alongside my older brother has profoundly shaped my perspective on how success is measured, and how each member of a family contributes in his own unique way. Jack was diagnosed with autism at age three, when I was just eighteen months old. His life has been marked by the challenges that come with a developmental disability, and I had a front row seat to his trials and triumphs. Having a sibling with a disability often meant adapting to his needs, even though I was younger. I have witnessed Jack’s remarkable resilience in the face of adversity. He didn’t allow his deficits to define him; instead, he harnessed them as stepping stones toward growth. This deeply impacted me, and motivated me to push beyond my comfort zone, tackle difficulties head-on, and transform them into opportunities for personal development.

Advocating for my brother has naturally thrust me into the role of a leader within our family dynamic. Effectively communicating with teachers, family, and friends to help him transition into social settings, has enhanced my ability to mediate, listen and empathize with others. Navigating his challenges taught me the importance of flexibility and creative problem-solving skills. Creating partnerships and fostering inclusivity are important tools in leadership. From an early age, I had to learn to adjust to our family’s unique circumstances, which were always changing and required the ability to adapt, as needed. These experiences taught me patience and seeing beyond my own, immediate needs.
In a world where birth order stereotypes attempt to predict our paths, my personal journey as a middle child stands as a testament to the uniqueness of each individual’s experience. By embracing the lessons learned alongside my brother, I’ve uncovered a wellspring of resilience and leadership within myself. Watching him defy expectations has propelled me to initiate change in my personal life and community.

I am resolute in my belief that our roles within families do not define us, but rather, they shape and mold us. However, that mold has to be broken in order to grow. I am thankful for my brother, and the role he played in my growth.

Sam Harrington is a senior at South Florence High School. He has been accepted into the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, where he plans to pursue a degree in International Business Law.