That’s how people used to call me and my sisters. Somehow, people found it cute. We were our parents’ pride and joy. We shared one room, shared the same pets and played with the same toys handed down from one to the other. We all could carry a tune so we were all in the village choir. At school, our parents were active in the PTA and the teachers would have a pleasant time seeking out the Tres Marias.
From that brood of three little misses, I was born second.
As we grew older, and as we discovered the world around us, we began to take on the natural cycle of life and seek out our own individuality. But then, since most of our childhood was spent with each other, it took a lot of adjustments. Especially for me.
People used to see the striking similarity between my older and younger sister. They were like twins. They had the same features, same smile, same laugh. It didn’t really bother me since people said I was the carbon copy of my dad. At least, I was unique, right?
Until the neighborhood kids teased me that I was adopted. I began to feel I was the odd one out. To make matters worse, I grew faster than my ate so we could not share the same clothes anymore. As a result, she started handing down her clothes to our youngest and mama bought matching clothes just for the two of them.
Then, whenever arguments arose, my parents seemed to side with either ate (because she was older and more mature) or with our youngest (because she was innocent and more helpless). This caused me deep pain. After each confrontation, I’d be defensive and fight back. I even recall watching a movie trailer on television with Kris Aquino crying and dramatically shouting, “Ampon! Ampon! Ampon! Ampon!!!”. I could so relate to her and feel her pain!
Thus began a life filled with deep-seated hurts and resentment. For all the times I felt lost and for all opportunities not given to me, I concluded that my parents loved me less because I was, indeed, adopted. At one point, I even wrote a letter to my parents telling them how I felt and how sure I was that they did not favor me because I was adopted. I told them it was okay because I already knew the cold and bitter truth. They talked to me about it, explaining that it was all in my head and that I was truly their own. But then, after that, only a part of my problems was solved. The obvious fact that I was “different” from my sisters remained.
In high school, I came upon a book entitled The Best Part of the Sandwich is the Middle Part. I never really got the chance to read the book in whole but I got the gist of the story from the author’s description. It was about a middle child (sounds familiar) and her struggle for attention in her family (hey…) and how she came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter if she was different because she saw her and her siblings as a sandwich (Huh?). The eldest was the bottom layer of the bread and the youngest was the top layer. And she would be the middle part – the best part. She could be anything! From ham-cheese to bacon-lettuce-tomato to egg salad, to chicken! She was the middle part and she loved it! (Why didn’t I think of that?!)
Now, this story, in a way, inspired me to do something with my life. So what if I was the middle child? So what if I was different? I was the best part and that’s that! I mean, I give the sandwich its name! My sisters, they are just two, boring pieces of bread. Without me, they were plain as plain could be. I am all that matters!
So, I went about my life working hard at excelling in all I do – in school, at home, and even in everything I do in the community. But then, the resentments were still there. They never really went away. The conflicts between me and my older sister even grew. Our 10-month difference added to the tension. We had the same set of friends in college so even though we had different courses, we still had too much of each other.
As for my relationship with my younger sister, I was trying so hard to be the ate only to realize in the end that I was constricting her and not allowing her to lead her own life.
We were all three different individuals with basically the same biological make-up and heritage. We all had a little of our parents’ wisdom, love for music and the arts, strong personalities, leadership abilities and even the dramatic flair in expressing ourselves. These were basically okay but when the Tres Marias clashed, it was a disaster!
I began to think that it was impossible to live with my sisters. I seriously considered moving out because I couldn’t take any more of it. We just had too much of each other and I didn’t feel appreciated enough. I felt too burdened. I wanted out.
In college, I learned about the Middle Child Syndrome. Discovering that my experience was not uniquely mine and that other people in the world shared my sentiments made me look at my situation in a different light. If I was not alone in feeling all the hurt, pain and resentment, how come God allowed it to still happen? Both my parents were in renewal and I had always been a good girl (I think). Why did He have to give me so many headaches when it came to my relationship with the members of my family? I mean, how can I cherish them and continue loving them if all my hurts resided at home?
I had to learn my lesson the hard way. Up to now, I am still learning. God gave me my family to love and to cherish. I was born into it according to His great plan and design. This did not mean, however, that it would be easy. (He came not to bring peace but a sword….)
Friendships can fade but families are forever
He has given us the gift of family but He wants us to work at preserving the natural love and harmony we have for them by withstanding all trials and difficulties that will come our way. At times, it is hard but this does not mean we should give up. We should get some sense of accomplishment from exerting even just a bit of effort at keeping our family together. Only this way can we, in the end, truly say that we have lived a full family life.
I still like my sandwich theory. But, this time around, I see that the two pieces of bread are as exciting as the middle part. The bread holds the sandwich together. It gives it character. It can go from wheat to white to rye to sesame buns. You can serve it freshly baked or toasted. You can even use it to create added layers. And if you serve it with a cold drink and potato chips on the side, you’d have a picnic.
Now, isn’t that nice?