The Fine Line of Being the Baby

Being the youngest in the family is a nice and confusing gray area. The ups and downs flip so fast you can’t see straight. No wonder parents tend to spoil the baby of the family; they’re just tired of dealing with screams, tears and temper tantrums by then.

Issue 1: Age

Being the baby tends to mean you get pampered, which, yes I’ll admit, is often true. Age often results in special treatment from parents and extended family simply because “you’re the baby!” which really irritates older siblings (apparently). I mean they have to drive you around, and who wouldn’t want a chauffeur?! It also often means that your input on things like activities or meals has the most influence because honestly, no one wants to hear you whine and pout all through dinner.

What is often overlooked is the downside to being the baby. You’re always the youngest, which means  someone is always left to babysit you, which slows the development of independence. It is often not until you’re the last one in the nest that you become fully self-motivated. It also means that you often get left out. “You’re too young,” or “Maybe next year!” are frequent responses given by Mom and Dad. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that moment that you watch the roller coaster take off with your older siblings while you’re still on the platform holding Mom’s hand because you’re not tall enough. Then, of course, the feeling is compounded when that specific ride is the ONLY thing the older kids talk about for the ENTIRE ride home. We’ve all been there at some point, but trust me, it sucks even more when you’re the only kid being left out.

Issue 2: Clothes

In some ways, being the baby can suck unless, a) your family wins the lottery, or b) you’re the last one in the nest. From a girl’s perspective, I remember always wanting a new outfit or something for school, and most of the time the response was to always hand me something of my sisters’: Hand-me-downs!

Maybe boys have to use their older siblings’ sports equipment, I don’t know. But until I was the last one, my wardrobe was definitely lacking. When I got a little older and closer in size, I did what almost every older sister complains about: I “borrowed.”

My sister wasn’t wearing her fleece pullover or that sweater from her birthday…so where was the harm if I “borrowed” it? It’s a temporary fix until she is off to college and suddenly you rule the roost. Then weekends are prime shopping days to talk mom into a new pair of shoes. No longer is she concerned with being fair to the kids, it’s all about the baby. Lucky for me!

Issue 3: Support

I guess the perks of being the baby outweigh those tears of sadness as you see the your siblings going upside down, yelling in glee on the roller coaster.

Realistically, as the baby, I got a cell phone earlier, a car for my 16th birthday, and a shiny new college diploma free of student loans.  It was worth all these years of parental hovering to protect the baby from any of the world’s harm.  Mom and Dad are generally more supportive of the baby and will help do whatever is necessary.

This coddling is both good and bad. The pampering is wonderful, but sometimes babies should be left to figure it out for themselves. Following older siblings or someone else’s decisions have guided our whole lives. Perhaps if we were given greater independence earlier in life, we wouldn’t need websites such as e-how’s “How to Cope with Being the Youngest.”

By now parents know what they are doing. Their habits influence their children, making us serious products of our environment. The babying and coddling make us affectionate and sensitive. Not leaving us to grow independently early in life make us dependent and indulged. Fighting for attention against siblings makes as attention-driven. The increased confidence of the parents results in a laid-back and relaxed youngest child.

If anyone has that stereotyped “bratty baby” it is their own doing. Being the baby is a bittersweet, fine line.

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