Friday, December 23, 2016

The Middle Candle: a Chanukah Story

Let's hear it for the most important candle on the menorah.
     It's not too often “the middle one” gets to go first. But during Chanukah that all changes. Every night, for eight nights, it's the middle candle that gets lit first. Without it, no other candles get lit. That's a big deal. I mean, if it weren’t for the middle candle, all those other candles would just be sitting there. What kind of Chanukah would that be?
     The middle candle is also the only candle that has an actual name. It’s called the shammash. All the other candles? Nobody even knows what they’re called. They have names like 3 and 5. And while that’s an all too familiar feeling for many Middle Children, it’s nice to see the shoe on the other foot for a change. Even if it’s only a candle. And yes, I realize candles don’t have feet, and therefore no shoes, so maybe that wasn’t the best metaphor. But you get the point.
     Shammash is Hebrew for servant, so the middle candle is thought of as a mere “helper” candle by many -- probably a lot of first and last borns. But let me ask you this: if the middle candle is simply some second class candle, how come it gets to sit on the highest perch of the menorah? That's clearly the best seat in the house! A special place, well above it’s less favorite brothers and sisters. I mean candles. No, the middle candle is clearly the most important one on the menorah. And that is the real miracle of Chanukah.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

BREAKING NEWS: International Middle Child Union Threatens Lawsuit Against Donald Trump.

     Sick and tired of Donald Trump’s continued embrace of negative Middle Child stereotypes, the International Middle Child Union is stealing a page from the Republican Presidential nominee’s playbook. “We’re threatening a lawsuit,” says I.M.C.U. boss Bruce Hopman. “All the name calling, claims of being an outsider, lashing out at his Republican “family” -- it’s like the very worst Middle Child behavior on steroids, all together in one package, covered in an orange wrapper!” 
     As the world’s leading Middle Child advocate, Hopman proposes filing a defamation of character class-action lawsuit on behalf of all Middle Children, arguing Donald Trump has done irreparable damage to their image. “It’s hard to advance the cause when the world’s most visible Middle Child is out there 24-7 behaving like an angry, spoiled, whining, cry baby,” says Hopman.
     “When it comes to giving Middle Children a bad name, we don’t need any more help.”

Friday, June 17, 2016

Father's Day: The Middle Child Connection.

The Mother of Father's
Day? Not so fast...
     Sonora Smart Dodd is often credited as being “The Mother of Father’s Day.” After her mother passed away when Dodd was 16, she was raised by her father, a civil war veteran. Looking for a way to honor him and other fathers, she spoke to a local ministerial alliance, and on June 19, 1910, a Father’s Day celebration was held in Spokane, Washington. But it wasn’t the first.
Gone But Not Forgotten: Grace Golden
Clayton's dad, Rev. Fletcher Golden.
     In December, 1907, Grace Golden Clayton was still mourning the loss of her father when a local mining disaster took the lives of 361 men, 250 of them fathers. She was so moved by the tragedy, she suggested her pastor honor all those fathers, and on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, the very first Father’s Day was held.
     Even though Clayton’s observance was first, it never caught on like Dodd's. Clayton was shy and poorly organized, while Dodd had the support of merchant groups who helped grow her version into the celebration we know today. Clayton was the youngest of 11 children, Dodd the eldest of six. So exactly how does the Middle Child figure into any of this?
     Dodd got her Father’s Day brainchild after hearing a sermon in 1909 about Anna Jarvis, the “Mother of Mother's Day.” Clayton was also believed to be inspired by Jarvis’ work. She lived just 15 miles from Grafton, West Virginia, where the first Mother’s Day celebration occurred only two months earlier, in May, 1908. And did I forget to mention Anna Jarvis was a Middle Child? So, if a Middle Child didn’t come up with the idea for Mother’s Day, there wouldn’t be a Father’s Day! But if that weren’t enough of a connection, how about this?
A Real Dick Move: June 18, 1972 was
the first time 
Father's Day was a
national holiday. A day after Watergate.
     As far back as 1913, there have been various failed attempts to formally recognize Father’s Day as a national holiday. Presidents Wilson and Coolidge tried and couldn't make it happen. In 1966, President Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. But it wasn’t until 1972 that it was made a national holiday, signed into law by President Richard Nixon -- wait for it -- also a Middle Child.
     So on behalf of the International Middle Child Union, and Middle Children everywhere -- Happy Father’s Day! And you’re welcome.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Middle Children: America's TRUE Born Leaders

     For years, birth order experts have been telling us that first born children are the natural born leaders. First borns love telling us that, too. To prove their point, they claim that a majority of U.S. Presidents were firstborns -- 52% to be exact. But the surprising truth is most American Presidents were actually Middle Children!
     Granted, it’s a little hard to assign some Presidents a specific birth order position. For example, George Washington’s father had four children with his first wife before the first President was born. Washington was the first of six children from his father’s second marriage. So was he the first born or the fifth born? FDR was the only child from his father’s second marriage, but had an older half-brother from his father’s first marriage. So is he the oldest or the youngest?  Still, even by the most conservative accounting, 21 presidents were Middle Children. That’s 48% of all U.S. Presidents. Throw in Washington and it jumps to 51% -- more than half.
     The long held, erroneous belief that most U.S Presidents were firstborns can only be concocted if you just consider first born males in their families, not the actual first born. Of course, that means totally disregarding their older sisters, which is just silly. Not to mention misleading. And probably sexist. In reality, only 35% of Presidents were honest-to-goodness firstborns. 37% at best.
     On the surface, this appears to be a rare victory for the Middle Child. But when you consider what a mess things are in DC, it’s probably just one more thing we’ll get blamed for.