Middle Child Syndrome

“Middle Child Syndrome.”

That was a phrase often repeated to my by my father as I was growing up 1. And I was the most middle child that one can probably be – the only boy, three years from each of my sisters, and the only one of the three who looked like my mother 2.

But as I grew into adulthood I took comfort in something that took me by surprise. I’m gen-X, and we are the middle children of generations. We don’t have the political, organizational, or economic weight of our Boomer parents. Nor do we tend to possess the shiny idealism of the millennials who followed in our footsteps. For a brief blip on the radar of history 3 we were “the thing.” But mostly we’ve just been left to our own devices 4. And because of our combined generational tendency toward cynicism and antipathy toward joining, Boomers eventually assumed that we were too into slacking to really care about anything.

But, like many middle children, we X’ers decided to go off on our own and make our own way. And from this “go our own way” mentality came some tiny contributions to Western Civilization. Like Google. And, as with many middle children, we got no credit. Gen-X literally created the online world which spawned the economic and social booms which greeted the Twenty-First Century, but all we tend to hear about is how the Millennials are ruining everything, and the Baby Boomers are all old and need to go away.

We never hear about the actual contributions we’ve made to society. We don’t get respected for the pragmatic 5 idealism we’ve displayed, which has lead to the rebirth of the protest movement and spawned experiments in shared community 6. We don’t get props for paying for the Social Security benefits of our parent’s generation 7, while also looking at the smaller generations behind us and considering how screwed we are. In my pastoral circles, no one wonders where our generation got to 8. We’re just forgotten.

And perhaps the most gen-X thing of all time popped up on Twitter a couple of days ago. CBS News put up a graphic of the generations, and omitted gen-X entirely. I can’t even make this stuff up, just look at the graphic.

A graphic listing generations, omitting gen-X.
Apparently there were no children born between 1964 AND 1981.

And yet, as X’ers, our last refuge is the bastion of irony 9. So when we’re omitted from a graphic of the generations we tend to think it’s hysterical. And because gen-X tends toward cynicism my fellow X’ers took this omission and owned it. Some of my favorite responses are below.

So here we are, the middle children of generations, screaming into the void of history once again. No one’s really listening but that’s OK. The other generations can fight amongst themselves, we’ll be off on our own actually doing stuff. But we’re not bitter or anything. Really.


  1. Like me, my father is a kind man. Also like me, he’s not very nice
  2. And I’m left-handed. Talk about odd man out. 
  3. The 90’s, though the Church was just getting around to boomers after the turn of the millennium. 
  4. I mean, Stranger Things is basically our lives being binge-watched. 
  5. And cynical. 
  6. It was X’ers out of Philly, for example, who began what’s known as a new monasticism. 
  7. The same generation whose politicians emptied the coffers of Social Security in the first place. 
  8. And I’m literally one of the only gen-X pastors I know in my state, you’d think that would be a bit of a red flag. 
  9. I mean, we have a song from our era that’s named Ironic, but the lyrics of the song hold zero irony and really just describe a sucky life, and that’s the irony of the song

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