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The Pros and Cons of being the Youngest Child

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"The Pros and Cons of being the Youngest Child"
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There are a myriad of pros and cons to being the youngest child. Some of them are touchy subjects and some are hum-drum, but all of them are part and parcel to this familial position.

The Pros:

1. Older siblings to protect and guide you. Obviously, being the youngest implies that there is at least one older sibling, be it a brother or sister. Being the youngest, or "the baby," entitles you to be protected by older siblings from the dangers of the world (or at least the neighborhood). It also entitles you to be guided by them as to the ways of your parents and the world, and watching them make their mistakes aids you in learning your own way around obstacles that will inevitably crop up in your world.

2. Being the "favorite." The youngest child tends to get the attention of the parents by being the baby or, in My case, being the only girl in a family of boys. I received double the attention and double the benefits. I was allowed to play with My brothers, regardless of how rough the play was, and I was taken care of by My parents when I got hurt because I was the only girl. I learned how to manipulate My parents' feelings because of this standing, and applied it to everyday life. I was, by no means, spoiled...but I was given a lot of free rein by My father while being held back by My mother.

The Cons:

1. Always being "the baby." No matter how old one gets, if they are the youngest child in ANY family, they will always be seen as "the baby." It matters not how many marriages, divorces, or children one has, this will always be a stigma carried by the youngest child. Some parents take it as far as their youngest child will always be attached to the apron strings of the mother (in case of most boys) or the bootstraps of the father (in case of most girls). The parents will constantly see their youngest child as the little baby they brought home from the hospital or the toddler that continued getting hurt from the rough play of its older siblings. It usually takes an act of God and Congress for the parents to realize their mistake, and it usually happens extremely late in life.

Being "the baby" also means that the youngest child is often excluded from the activities of the older siblings, either due to severe age differences or parental preference. This can also lead to retaliation from the older siblings due to the youngest child's "favored" status, which can often warp the child's perception of itself or its position within the family circle.

2. Older siblings use youngest child. This happens in a large number of families that have more than one child. The older siblings learn how to manipulate the youngest sibling in order to get what they (the elder) want, regardless of the lasting effects (if any) on the youngest child. In other words, the older siblings will sometimes use the youngest as a sort of leverage against the parents in order to get a bike, a car, a video game, etc.

Many times, the youngest will be a slave or servant to the older siblings, being asked, threatened, cajoled, bribed, told to do or say something to either take the heat off the older children or to keep the older children out of trouble. Sometimes this backfires, and the ruse is found out by the parents who take steps to correct their older children. Sometimes, the ruse works and the youngest child is blamed or corrected for something s/he has done for the sake of its siblings.

Occasionally, the older siblings will use the youngest for experimentation, capitalizing on the youngest child's curiosity and driving need for acceptance. This can lead to early drug use, abuse, and molestation, forever warping the youngest child's sense of self and leading to a lifetime of security, safety, and health issues.

As you can see, the role of the youngest child is all at once secure and hazardous. I've lived 30+ years as the youngest child, and have survived everything outlined above. Being the youngest child has its pros and cons, its blessings and curses, ups and downs. I'm constantly compared to both of My brothers (one being a pastor, and one being a felon) and repeatedly asked to conform with society's "rules." If I had a dollar for each time I heard, "Why can't you be more like your eldest brother (the pastor)?" I wouldn't have to work ever again. Or hearing, "You're acting like your older brother (the felon)." It never mattered whether or not I was happy; it was always a comparing game between Myself and My 2 older brothers. I couldn't do or say anything that didn't remind My parents of one of My brothers or something they did. In many ways, I lived in a glass house, complete with the knowledge that I would never have My own individuality in My parents' eyes unless I put My foot down and made them look at Me with different eyes.

So I did.

The price of My individuality will be saved for a thread of that ilk, where it will be outlined and categorized much as this article has. For now, I will tell you that the price I paid for My freedom is one I wouldn't wish on anyone, not even My worst enemy.

More about this author: Ms Dark

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