“I remember way back then when everything was true. And when we would have such a very good time. Such a fine time, such a happy time. And I remember how we’d play, simply waste the day away. Then we’d say nothing would come between us, two dreamers.” ~Madness, Our House
I’m the youngest of four. I noticed recently I say this rather than telling people I’m the baby of the family. The term “baby of the family” annoys me. Mostly because I feel like I got totally screwed on being treated like the “baby of the family.” I didn’t get away with shit! When people ask if I have siblings, I say yes. I have three. The conversation usually goes like this:
Person: Oh, you have three siblings?
Me: Yep. Two brothers and one sister.
Person: Oh, are you the oldest?
Me: Nope. I’m the youngest.
Person: OOOOOHHHHHHH! So you’re the baby of the family?
Me: No. I’m the youngest.
See?! I completely avoid it even when they technically got my birth order right. I tell them they’re wrong and then reword what they just said. I could agree to end the conversation, but I don’t. And I won’t. The conversation usually continues along these lines:
Person: I bet you got away with everything.
Me: No. I didn’t get away with shit. I’m the youngest. My parents knew all the tricks by the time they got to me.
Person: Oh, yeah right. The baby of the family always gets away with everything.
Me: Yeah, people always tell me that, but that’s not what happened.
Person: I bet your parents gave you everything they didn’t give your siblings.
Me: No. They treated us all the same.
The conversation usually ends there – mostly because they can hear a slight hint of anger in my voice. Sometimes they keep insisting I was treated better than everyone else, and I just get quiet. (It is true. I didn’t really get in trouble, but that’s because I didn’t do a lot of bad stuff!)
I have heard this baby tale my entire life. The baby of the family gets spoiled, gets away with everything, never gets in trouble, blah blah blah. I’m not mad because they’re calling me a baby. Ok, I’m a little mad at that. I’m mad because I feel like I got screwed in my birth order! My parents were so wonderful in their thinking of trying to treat all of us the same, and I’m glad those jerks did. I wouldn’t change a thing….but damn it! Other youngest kids in the family got later curfews? Didn’t have to get jobs? Their parents didn’t yell at them when they were acting like an ungrateful jackass? I can’t believe it because I can’t imagine it. That’s just not how things went down in my house.
What perks did being the youngest in my family get me? There were some:
- My brother once told me that if I fell asleep with any of my limbs hanging outside the covers, a man comes in the middle of the night and chops them off. (I still sleep fully-covered.)
- My other brother used to chase me, tackle me, put his knees into my shoulders so I couldn’t move my arms then slowly spit and suck it back up just before it hit my face. Sometimes, he didn’t suck it back up in time. (Consequently, I’m a tough cookie.)
- I did get to hear my parents’ complain about my other siblings mistakes then offer up solutions. For example: “If they would just spend the night at their friends’ house, they wouldn’t get in trouble for drinking.” Oh, really? I was a rule follower, but I was not afraid to call their bluff. I did and was sooo looking forward to calling them hypocrites. They weren’t. They held true to their word. See? I got nothing! Where was the fun in that?
- I got to watch my siblings go through high school, college, breakups, fights with friends, fail and succeed for the first time. I got a heads up on what was to come so it wasn’t so scary. (They owed me for the limb-chopping story).
- I got all the hand-me-downs. That sounds negative, but it’s not. I was so pumped to get my sister’s clothes.
- I got to experience what it was like to be an only child as a near-adult. That’s a perk the youngest probably only gets and remembers. Well, unless your older siblings don’t grow up and move the hell out. Being a near-adult only child was cool for like, a weekend. Then I missed my peeps. I learned I loved my siblings.
- Support. I got a lot of support and encouragement. My sister was quick to threaten and offer to beat up anyone being mean to me. She still does. It rules.
- My life got threatened a lot. If I got caught stealing toys, clothes, CDs, etc. my ass was grass. Did I stop? Hell no. I just got crafty at “borrowing” and putting things back very carefully.
- I got zero turns at Nintendo when I was a kid. My brother’s hogged it. When I finally got a turn, I was so bad from never getting to play, I died within less than a minute. They would immediately take the controller back. I learned life is not fair. Truth!
- I learned how to spot a cheater when playing games. When you’re the youngest, they think you’re naïve and won’t notice. In my family, they’re easy to spot. Everyone in my family is a cheater except my mom.
I guess being the youngest does have its perks, even if it isn’t the mythical perks of being spoiled and having no rules. I don’t have kids, but I am pretty confident if I am lucky enough to have more than one I would follow my parents’ lead on this one. It’s the way to go. Don’t baby your youngest. You don’t want them walking through life like a total pussy.
If you are the youngest, you have to pay attention to what’s going on around you or you’ll miss the whole show. If you miss it, that’s on you. Life’s not fair, kid.