Middle children. We all know one, have one or are one. Never regarded as highly as the firstborn, never spoiled as much as the baby, middle children seem to exist in a perpetual limbo willing to do anything to get noticed. My son Jacob has been a middle child since before his mother or I even had a third kid. He always just exuded this also ran aura despite not being treated that way by either of his parents. I don’t write much about my older children. It just seems like I can get more comedy out of the baby. I did write one blog post about Michael which inadvertently makes what I said about Jacob being a middle child all the more true.
Jacob is a complicated nut to crack. He can at times be the sweetest, most loving child with heart of gold. Other times he can be one of the darkest, coldest people that I’ve ever met. All of my children inherited certain traits from me but Jacob seems to be cursed with all of my worst qualities both genetically and behaviorally. He’s overweight, sarcastic and he has asthma and allergies. Did I mention mental illness?
I assumed for years that my depression and self loathing was a direct result of my upbringing. My anxiety? I was just a nervous kid. When Jacob started exhibiting signs of the same neural maladies that I myself suffer from, I was forced to acknowledge that they were more than likely genetic. Especially since I went out of my way to treat him better than my parents treated me. Have you ever heard a four year old tell you in a fit of tears that he wished that he never existed? It’s a horrible situation. Poor Jacob deserves better than to go through life saddled with my
Piss-poor genes. The only silver lining to the genetic shit cloud that I passed along was that he also inherited my sensitivity and creativity. Not that two good things make up for the slew of bad. Am I being too hard on myself? Maybe, but knowing that you’ve passed any disease onto your kids, be it physical or mental, is a shitty feeling.
I have a brother with far worse mental issues than I: schizophrenia, bipolar , psychosis just to name a few. About eight years ago he got a vasectomy, his reasoning was that he never wanted to have children in case he passed along his illnesses. I always admired the maturity and responsibility behind that decision. I sometimes wonder if I should have taken the same step. Was it fair of me to have children knowing that there was a good chance that I’d screw them up? Do all parents screw up their kids to some degree? I’m far too selfish to not have had them. Your own little people that have to love you unconditionally, what depressive, self loather could pass that up? If I hadn’t had the older two, especially Jacob, I never would have survived my divorce. My children became my only source of affection for four long years.
I’m doing my best for Jake, I understand his feelings, his anxieties his sadness more than anyone else in his life. Still it can’t help but ring hollow in my own ears every time I tell him that he should be proud of himself, that he’s not a bad kid and that he should love himself. I know he’ll never quite feel that way. Many people have told me the same things many times and it never helps, never changes anything. I won’t ever give up trying though. As a parent and as a friend, I’ll continue to try and combat the effects of the losing ticket to the genetic lottery that my son is forced to keep in his back pocket for the rest of his life.
I realize that this post is different in tone from most of the stuff I write in this blog. And I’m sorry for that, I really am. It’s hard to write anything funny and upbeat at 1:00am. Any thoughts that occur after midnight are usually somber ,soaked in regret and shrouded in darkness.
As my eyes grow weary and start to close all I can think of is how much I love that kid and one day, if I say it enough times he’ll have to believe it. Until then I’ll just keep trying.