By Daro Mrakpor, September 19 2023—
No one sees him/ He walks by and no heads turn/ His presence is not perceived/ Did I die he thinks/ Did the world end without me?/ No one hears her/ She shouts out but no heads turn/Her presence is not perceived/ Did I lose my voice she thinks/ Did the world suddenly go deaf?/ No one sees/ No one hears/ Their presence is not perceived/ Who says God’s asleep?/ The superpower he gave relieved.
Being invisible has made you invincible.Kay Dhee
Have you ever heard of the invisible soldiers? Probably not. Our brave and gallant soldiers carry the weight of the funny taken-for-granted sibling who will forever be in the shadows of the first and the last. Strategically placed in the middle they find themselves in the perfect balance of invisibility and accusation. No one ever remembers them but they are always the first to blame, often with no evidence. Our strong and bold soldiers hide on the sidelines so the first and last can shine. Their sacrifice often, if not always, goes unnoticed. They have no one to sing their praises for bearing all the emotional burdens from the first and last. No one to tell tales of their mischief. With no songs they fade into nothing, barely a figment of imagination, like the fallen Troy.
As a middle child placed perfectly between two older sisters, an older brother, two younger sisters and a younger brother, I have experienced first-hand what it means to be completely non-existent. The lack of stories speaking to my lived experiences and that of all other middle children out there sheds light on our invisibility. I cannot count the number of stories, reels and posts talking about the struggles of being the first child, of being your parents’ experiment, of being the substitute parent. Stories on the benefits of being able to steal your siblings’ clothes, the joys of being over-pampered or spoilt to the core. I’m sitting here writing this in my mother’s shirt — I too can steal clothes.
Growing up in a typical Nigerian home, there was already a limited amount of love to go around and it does not help to have to fight for that love with six other siblings. Most of the time, it felt like my parents were just not emotional beings, I still feel like that, but for some reason, it did not look like my first sister and younger brother had that same feeling. It felt like me and my other siblings were just extras in their shows. The entire world seemed to revolve around them to the point where my mom was always addressed as Mummy T, Mummy O, never Mummy Daro or Mummy any of my other siblings. We were all unnecessary per se. However, when it came to blame, we were always suspected first, my other siblings usually got the blame — I was invisible to the point where I was not even worth blame. I cannot count the amount of times I thought I was adopted, it did not help that I am the ugly sibling either. We had to be extra good in everything to receive the same accolades which, to be honest, I have no qualms with. I can proudly say I am the person I am today because I was a middle child covered in multiple battle scars no one will ever see.
I do not remember when exactly I made the switch from feeling invisible to feeling invincible but I do remember that at some point in my life, I began to love the neglect I was receiving. My parents were not in my business, they were never on my case to get anything done, and they had no expectations of me whatsoever. I could basically do whatever I wanted and live freely. I built a tolerance to rejection and neglect, I was able to develop an independent nature, I just got used to myself and I believe that that is the hidden superpower of our invisible soldiers. Yes, I felt slighted at times, yes I felt like the world was rigged against me, but that was all before I recognized the glory it is to be a middle child. The endless supply of hand-me-downs, the free humour prep, the rejection tolerance, the independence and the diplomatic skills because — trust me we are in the middle of every fight, not to mention the freedom that comes with not being noticed and shackled down by expectations from your parents and others.
As a middle child, I am genuinely free and I do not need my songs to be sung or my battle scars displayed, my grit and resilience are enough evidence of my strength and it is a testament to my story.
This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.