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[Hey, that’s me] The unfavored child

By Myrrh-L

Growing up, I wished I were the eldest, the youngest, the only daughter, or a son. Basically, I wanted to be anyone but the middle child and the daughter that I am. Several birthdays later, I’ve forgotten about that fantasy and the pain that caused it. Or so I thought.

One random night in 2017, the countless mentions of Answer Me 1988 in the comment sections of Dramabeans and streaming sites must have taken its toll on me. I’ve read more than my fair share of spoilers, willingly and unwillingly, so when I decided to just go for it, I was surprised by how the first episode reminded me of my childhood wish.

You see, like Sung Deok-sun, I have an older sister (whom I shared a bedroom with) and a younger brother. My siblings and I also spent breakfasts and dinners together with our parents. As we dined, we tuned in to our TV. Of course, my sister and I bickered a lot, too. (We didn’t curse and shout that much though.) Watching the Sung household for the first time was a surreal experience for me. How could it recreate my childhood when I was born in the 90’s and was raised in a different culture?

However, Deok-sun and I weren’t identical. Deok-sun had guts growing up; I had none. Yet, I excelled in academics; she didn’t. Our list of differences expanded to the point that I no longer cared about her being a middle child. I even saw more of myself in her unni, Sung Bo-ra.

Enter that scene where she insisted that she didn’t want to celebrate her birthday in advance and on the same day as her sister’s. It intrigued me, but it was nothing that I could relate at all. I would never have to deal with that kind of issue anyway because my siblings and I have different birth months.

But like Deok-sun, I cared about birthday celebrations. When I was younger, I wanted to feel special even for just a day, and I always hoped that my birthdays would make that possible. Sadly, I was born in the summer and school usually let out for summer vacation before my birthday. My mother often told me how great it was because we never had to throw a party that my classmates and teachers would attend. As for my siblings, they had chances to have their classmates sing the birthday song for them.

When the Sungs were about to celebrate Deok-sun’s birthday in advance, and re-using Bo-ra’s cake at that, I broke down alongside my favorite fictional middle child. It was just too painful to watch because it hit close to home. I knew how it felt when you’ve asked something, something so small, from your parents, listened to their reluctant promise, and hoped that they’d keep it. Yet in the end, they just failed you.

I re-watched that scene to write this entry and I still reacted the same way. Even writing about it still made me tear up. The sorrow of being a middle child is truly a sorrow. I know there are far more tragic scenarios in real life, but I can’t help but pity every middle child out there—most especially my younger self.

As if that scene wasn’t enough, we saw Sung Dong-il comfort his second daughter. It reminded me of that moment when my father and I dined in a fast-food restaurant after attending an awarding ceremony in my university. It was one of the times that I’ve felt special. Watching that scene and remembering that moment with my father were enough to make me say that my favorite first episode in a drama was from Answer Me 1988.

Scratch that. I meant one of my favorites. Several months later, I saw Because This Life Is Our First and that changed my mind. I guess I have a thing for first episodes showing birthday celebrations and sibling squabbles.

As a struggling writer myself, I’ve witnessed bits of myself in Yoon Ji-ho. However, it’s not the thing that I could relate to the most. Instead, it was the way she was treated for being a daughter who had a younger brother.

Being the only son, my parents favored my younger brother in some ways. I saw how he was given his own set of toys, a study table and a shelf while I was provided with hand-me-downs. As an older sibling, I tried my best to be very understanding. Moreover, my brother didn’t bother me, unlike our eldest sibling, so I didn’t resent him for the way my parents spoiled him.

One afternoon in my mid-twenties, my mother told me to work hard so I could settle our debts. That way, according to her, my younger brother and his future wife could have our childhood home. That stung.


Because This Life Is Our First

We had that conversation (or more like I listened to my mother’s monologue) a few days before I watched that scene where Ji-ho was walking down a tunnel. Even if you have a pretty decent family, finding a place to call home could still be challenging. Some people may say that you can just swallow your pride and go back to your parents (or live with your sibling). However, they don’t seem to realize that pride isn’t the only thing you’re losing. What about your hopes? Furthermore, you can’t really call a home “a home” when it no longer feels comfortable and secured.

Deok-sun, Ji-ho, and my older sister went on to have their happily-ever-after. I’m not looking forward to meeting a knight in shining armor whom I can have a home with. I wish I could be a snail instead. But then again, how will I watch K-drama heroines that are bound to make me cry, laugh, hope or say, “Hey, that’s me!”

 
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from one middle child to another.. *big hugs*

that scene from Reply 1988 got me in the guts too. even when i thought i was over it after so many years being an adult.

i'm the only daughter but there really is no difference when your parents (mostly mom) favour the brothers anyway. luckily i have no issues with my siblings, just feeling detached from the parental unit.

i found a bunch of friends i could really be myself with though so i think that's a win even if i don't feel special in my own family.

i hope we'd all find our own place to be, regardless of where, and it'd be enough. =)

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Thank you, @FH. Your comment is enough to make me feel special for today. Here's to finding our own place!

*plays TSwift's A Place In This World*

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Thank you for publishing this, DB! You just don't know how you made me happy. I've been lurking here for years but I only had the guts to join and submit my piece last month. :D

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What a great piece! I loved how you just showed your heart and soul. Reply 1988 was my childhood as well, but because I grew up in the 80’s. It’s such a well-written drama.

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Thank you, Ally! You're entries are actually one of my inspirations for writing and submitting a piece here on DB.

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That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about my writing! You’re a great writer too! Thank you for submitting this! We all have equally important stories to tell!

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*Your

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Wonderful article. Hope to see you in recaps and on the fanwall too.

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I haven't live-watched any K-drama since 100 Days My Prince but I might try with Im Siwan's latest drama. I just have to finish two dramas I already started. 😊 See you around!

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dear @myrrhl , what a touching essay.
And welcome out of lurking! lol

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Thank you so much! You're all making me feel so at home here. 🥰

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Middle child here. Older sister, younger brother. I related to so much of your post, thanks for writing!

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Aww nothing but hugs to you.

I am the older child, and have two younger siblings - a brother and a sister. But still my experience was very close to you. It was always expected that I give up my favourite toy for my younger siblings - 'they should have it they are the youngest'. I also witnessed how much freedom my younger siblings had than I ever did growing up. Basically I was raised to become more of a parent to them and look for for them. 30 years later it is still the same. I look after them more than they look after me. I have no regrets though..

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Thank you so much!

My sister could relate to you. Looking back, it's one of the reasons for our countless conflicts. I was quite meticulous for a kid while my teenage sister just wanted to get things done. Whenever our parents were away and she had to prepare meals for us, she'd overcook and send me dagger looks if I frown upon the sight of our food. 😂 Until now she still acts like a parent but we're good now. I even served as her maid of honor.

In recent years, we actually joked a lot about our fights when we were younger. When I guilt-tripped her about her chasing me until our bathroom, she told me how the two-year-old me restricted her from playing with the other kids outside.

Both of us binge-watch Korean dramas and movies now, but we don't listen to each other's recommendations. I've been telling her to watch Answer Me 1988 but she declined. I'm thinking of sharing this piece to her but she might find me cringe-y for being overly dramatic once again. 😂

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Same here. I am the eldest of two. My sister always resented that she was mostly given hand me downs and I was upset that I had to give up my things for her because she is younger. And I had to fight for everything while she just enjoyed the outcomes because I already fought for it. For a long time I didn’t have a good sibling relationship with my sister. It was mostly about being the responsible adult and taking care of her.

As we grew up we understood my parents were not financially well off and most of their behavior was trying to save money and still make their daughters happy. Thankfully we as siblings are good now. We have managed to find our way to each other and have amiable sibling relationship today. Am so grateful for that.

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Younger me used to hate hand me downs especially if they're from my sister. Judy Abbott expressed my feelings best, “The bitterness of wearing your enemies' cast-off clothes eats into your soul. If I wore silk stockings for the rest of my life, I don't believe I could obliterate the scar.”

I rarely asked for things from my parents because I saw how they reluctant they were with my requests before. I was willing to don secondhand clothes, I just didn't want my sister's. But when I went to college and my sister was already working, I'd get clothes from her closet without her permission. Eventually I told her and she just didn't mind and until now we're exchanging clothes.

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I have four older sisters who my mother would dress alike when they were young. Imagine the same outfit four times over handed down year after year. I was a bit jealous of my brother who not only got to wear clothes only handed down from a cousin, but he also got his own room. Though to be fair, I've had a closet bigger than that room. But boy, having anything that was really truly your own, whether it be clothes or space was always the dream.

One thing I will say, I was lucky. My parents tried really hard to treat us all as individuals (matching outfits being the exception), and to give us their time and affection in a way that best suited each of individually. I've tried to emulate this with my own children. (Yes, I also dressed them alike at times. To defend this, it's easier to spot them in crowds if they are in "uniform")

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Haha at the uniform. Makes complete sense to me now that you have explained it like this 😂

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I'm crying while I read this *sending virtual hugs to you*
but my mom said, when parents asked something to one of their child, it means they trust you that you can do it, even when we think it's unfair

and yess Reply 1988 is one of my favorite k-drama because I can relate to the character, not as deok sun but bora, the oldest sister :)

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Thanks! I was kind of wishing that Bo-ra was the middle child instead. But whenever I see her being so tough, I keep coming back to Deok-sun. She's so me especially in that scene where she used Bo-ra's makeup and clothes. 😂

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I agree bil. That's exactly what my parents say too. They reason they tell you to do sth or get angry at you for not doing sth while they don't treat the other children that way is because they have hopes and expectations from you. They know you care.

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*sends tons of hugs your way* @myrrhl

Thank you for this beautiful write-up and letting us know that we're not alone in this!! Despite feeling like we are in the family :(

I'm not the middle child, but I am the unfavored and unheard second child (of 2... I have an older sister), and there's definitely moments when things happen, things are said, things are heard (on my end), things are unheard despite being said and it stings. It definitely stings. Even though we may know that it's unintentional that we are hurt, it still hurts, and when we express our hurt, those around us--sometimes, it's even those closest to us-- say that we are just 'taking things too personally'. Well duhh.... It's family-- how can we NOT take things personally and more seriously and more from the heart??
There's sooooo many instances I can count that my mom would share something with me (she usually shares things with me first and with me more because I am at home with her more than my older sister is, for various reasons-- i.e. work, I'm a homebody, my mom is a homebody, my sister ISN'T a homebody...-- and I would offer up my thoughts and opinions when asked, but it would simply go right over my mom's head, and then when my mom goes to share about the same things to my sister and my sister offers up the same thoughts and opinions as I do-- and word for word, too, I kid you not-- only then, does my mom hear it, and in my own head I'm like, "Well, then.... That's what I said, but obviously she either didn't hear it the first time when I said it or she wasn't listening in the first place..." It stings.
I consider myself as a pretty affectionate person, and I actually do catch myself being and feeling closer, on an emotional level, to my super close circle of friends-- whom I consider family and tell them 'I love you' all the time-- and being more affectionate (i.e. giving hugs, words of encouragement, etc.) towards said friends than I do with my own family, and it sort of creates a sense of emotional separation in my head-- which I feel horrible about at times-- but it actually might be due to the fact that I am the unheard/unfavored child and this feeling of emotional separation from my actually family is my own mental way of coping/protecting myself. Don't get me wrong, I love my own biological family ever so much--they are my world-- but I just can't help it at times :(

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*hugs*

I was hesitant with my post's title at first because it might seem like my parents never favored me over my siblings. They actually did and still do at times. Admittedly, I didn't show enough appreciation for some of those.

I believe that if you look hard enough, you'll find that there were times when your parents treated you well (or even better than your sibling). Also, we should remember that as parents, they're still prone to making mistakes and so are we, as children.

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Definitely 🥰🥰
I’m not saying that all I experienced or experience at home is neglect et al., not at all 😅😅
There’s also definitely times where I don’t appreciate my family more than I should. Parents are still people, and people are not perfect and will make mistakes/come off as tactless, and that’s okay!!

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I also cried when I read this, I guess there's nothing like childhood nostalgia to bring in the flood. I also found Reply 1988 as a replica of my childhood and my family, in a different decade and a different country. I am the eldest child with a younger sister and brother. I was totally Bora - buried in my books and didn't show I cared and blind to the things that made my life easiest among us. Although my sister claims she was the favourite daughter (my parents let her because that doesn't bother me) she would also be the first one to complain that she isn't loved enough. She is totally Sung Deok-sun and I loved and envied her for it and reading this makes me miss her a lot!

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Your sister and I will get along so well. I can't imagine how our pity parties might go. 😂

And thank you for loving her and letting her be. There were a few times when my sister told me the things she had when she was still the only child. I can't stress enough how those were so annoying.

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To be fair her biggest gripes would be that I never helped out enough in the housework or just bribed my brother to them for me or that I never saw the point of views of my parents. My excuse was always that I was busy studying because I had to work much harder than her to get good grades (she's a natural). She's the glue that keeps the family together, always the more responsible one and everyone at home is terrified of her fury :D. But I've always worried that she didn't think I was cool enough to be her older sister and that she was embarrassed at how geeky I was considering that she's a social butterfly. It was only many years later she would tell me that she was always proud of me and wanted to follow on my footsteps and it was weird but I was really happy to know that.

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I am a middle child, too. When I was born my (five years) older sister was allowed by my parents to choose my name. (They were worried she'd be jealous.) We fought all the time. She was my nemesis. I'll only give one example, when I was just over two years old she handed me a snail and told me it was a walnut. So I bit into it. She laughed for YEARS about the green goo that drooled from my mouth. (Luckily I don't remember the actual event--only the telling of it.) It was only after I was grown and went to visit her (in another State) that I realized something. Every one of her friends, and many people at the church she attended knew who I was, my name even. I remarked to my husband, none of my friends now even know I have an older sister. She HAD been jealous. I was younger, cuter, had more friends, and had talents she wished she had. (I had stories and poems published in the newspaper. I could draw.) We are great friends now. (I have always been friends with my younger brothers. How my sister treated me instilled the fierce desire that they wouldn't feel about me like I felt about my sister.) I "hated" her. And I didn't want them to "hate" me. I've come to accept my "middleness." And I love my older sister now. It just took years for us to become friends.

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Do you find it hard to remember the reasons behind most, if not all, your fights? Because I did. We also fought a lot but I couldn't remember the hows and whys behind most of our fights. I knew my sister was jealous of me, too. She told me and my father how unfair it was that I had bigger allowance in one occasion. My father argued that I'd be attending an inter-school competition in another town. Talking about it with my family just makes us laugh these days.

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Wow since reply 1988 was a few years ago it didn't cross my mind that it had the most relatable first episode ever. It's never the big things but the small ones thay hurt. I am a middle child, I don't have a brother but a very big part of me consistently wishes I was a boy(maybe that's just a societal issue and what women generally have to face). But yeah to make matters worse, my other sisters have the same star sign and even if I don't believe in astronomy all that much, they are practically the same person and me the other, the one that doesn't fit. Over time yes things have reduced because I have come to realize that parents may have a favorite child but they will still treat all children the same to the best of their abilities. They won't divide the love, maybe yes the oppotunities.

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And here I am quoting Judy Abbott once again,

"It isn't the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh - I really think that requires spirit."

To be fair, being a good parent isn't easy either. I have yet to have my own family but looking after my nephews and nieces, I couldn't help but favor one over the others.

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@myrrhl, thank you for writing this lovely piece, and finally delurking. Welcome. And if I could, I would send you your very own special cake to celebrate.

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Thank you so much! I'm still exploring the site and considering live-watching a drama that will soon get subbed here. I wanted to participate in the discussions here but I felt like I needed to watch more dramas. Thanks again!

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I am also a middle daughter and I was totally hated because I used to be the only one that complained about how almost everything sucked. 😒
Eventually, I realize my parents didn't know what they did getting married at 17 and having children they wouldn't protect.
Nevertheless.... Life didn't hurt so much anymore, because I understood I didn't have a home from the beginning. So, whatever little I have achieve by myself, like universitie degrees, learning foreign l languages, traveling, etc... is all a gift from above, and it had been awesome, because it is all a plus from someone who was born a zero.

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From zero to our own hero, right? 😉

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Yeah, in a way. Although I am still making myself a person and I still have way to go, but I never surrender, not even after I make any mistake. Life is beautiful, with or without parents.

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Hi, I just wanted to say hang in there~ I am not a middle child but the older sister but your written piece just touched my heart. I could feel your heartfelt emotions as you wrote this. It conjured up the same feelings I had when I watched Deoksun and her dad in the same scene. Thanks for sharing your thoughts~ I really enjoyed reading it and I wanted to say that you're such a great writer! Hope you write more things in the future.

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Thank you so much! Whenever I read recaps, year-end reviews, totm entries and even some comments here on DB, I can't help but admire and wish that I could be as articulate as everyone else. You guys are awesome~

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