To the outside world, she is sure-footed. She commands respect without much effort at work. As a young achiever, it has been very easy for her to attract both respect and jealousy in equal measures. Her ability to keep her real friends and provide a shoulder for them to lean on during times of difficulty is also something that makes her popular in her close-neat and deep friendships. She is extremely dependable however; she is not interested in taking any leadership roles either because she does not believe she can lead anyone or because she feels safe when someone else takes the lead. At school, she was easily a teacher’s pet because of her brilliance and ease to follow instructions. At work, she is always given the assignments that are considered delicate and that required so much attention to instructions and she also easily flourishes in assignments that allow her to use her creativity while seated at the feet of an expert.
But there is a problem. At home, no one takes her seriously. Although she is an adult, her older siblings still confirm whether she is feeling cold or not (as if her senses cannot do that for her). As a matter of fact, her family does not believe that she can match her own clothes, talk less of speaking at those high end conferences.
Well, if for some reason you understand this strange story, then you are probably a last child. Margaret O’Brien writes that for a long time, there has been ‘cold wars’ between the youngest children and their older siblings because of the assumption that last borns have a rosy life while the rest of the population had to make do with thorns. But this assumption is not necessarily correct.
Here are some deal-breakers, reasons why you want to keep your family position and quit that prayer to reincarnate as a lastborn.
a) Everyone has an opinion about who you date
You were in no position to scrutinize your big sister’s boyfriend. However, you either imagine their eyes on your love interest or you fear that they might not approve of him. Remember as a lastborn, you have grown up needing validation from your older siblings from the time you bought yourself the first handkerchief to when you were going to high school; everyone had a say about whether the letter from Bunyore Girls High School or the one from Asumbi Girls would be better. Meanwhile, all you wanted was for your father to go on with the plan to look for a chance at Naivasha Girls but you weren’t asked for your opinion. So it might not be easy for you to act regardless of their thoughts, completely.
A possible cause for this kind of control is that youngest children grow up without being required to take any major responsibilities so that their older siblings worry about their abilities to take any crucial decisions in life.
“Do you want to date Mike? Of course, not. Men with his demeanor have a heartbreaking streak on their CV!”
“You spoke about looking for a scholarship in Ireland? Try the UK, Irish people are too tight.”
“You are thinking of specializing as a fiction prose writer? That is good but scripting for film suits you better. Consider a career along those lines.”
Of course if you are not a last child, you do not understand why someone cannot simply choose what they want. You must be a lastborn to understand this, to understand all the kind of family control that you have to navigate before your decision can stand on its own.
This could perhaps be the reason why many youngest children tend to take interests in areas that are completely different from what their siblings took to avoid direct competition as well as feel in charge of their lives so that they will not have to play badminton simply because an older sibling likes it.
b) Major steps in your life are not celebrated
I don’t mean this in a bad way. You see, it started with those baby steps when you were learning to walk. Your parents had raised the older children so it was no longer something particularly exciting or breath-taking when you started walking. And this trend will go on… by the time you are graduating, your parents have already seen three other graduation parties and while it is special, it is nothing novel. You are catching a flight to Windhoek for your first international workshop? Oh great! It reminds your parents about the day your big brother went to Berlin for an exchange program. It is true that your achievements are appreciated but not as enthusiastically as your big sisters and brothers, this article on Thought Catalog argues.
It is a struggle being a lastborn. If you do not stand out very much, then the light from your older siblings is likely to cover you up and make you invisible. There is need to be aggressive and that’s why lastborn children come across as attention-seekers. This attention seeking could perhaps be the only way people will shift their eyes off the orderly firstborn, the opinionated second-born, the invincible third-born to eventually get to the last entry, the boring lastborn.
c) There is a part of your family history you missed
If there is a significant gap in the number of years between you and your siblings, you will never get over the line,
“Before you were born.”
During family gatherings and memories are being relived, you might cry if you have sadistic older siblings. I am a lastborn and I know this all too well. Sometimes you feel like an outsider… I once sat through a 20 minutes of blackout as my older siblings chatted about the places we lived before settling where we are now. Sometimes they talk about things that I was too young to remember or not even born yet. This may sound like a fuss over nothing, but it makes you a stranger to some details of your own family. Olivia Wilson writes that this – being left out of childhood memories—is a downside to being a lastborn because these are moments you might always yearn for but will never experience. And it does not end here; you will be the butt of so many family jokes! You will be teased about crying over your sister’s tea even when you know you have been allergic to tea leaves since you were two years old or how you always spoilt family outings because you were a snitch when the fact is that they are unruly, cheeky and ‘criminals’ and all you ever did was to give your opinion about them to your parents the same way they gave opinions about you.
d) You are always the baby
Whether you are six or 60, you are a baby in the eyes of your siblings, parents and if you are unlucky, family friends and relatives will call you ‘toto’ or ‘kababy’ or ‘kajuju’ even on the day before your wedding. My big sis once while looking for me, called my friend’s phone because I wasn’t picking mine and asked, “Umeona Kadaisy wetu?” My friend was confused and wondered why I never told her my full name. It took a while to explain that the “ka” was not part of my name and my family used it to emphasise my “smallness”. For some reason, you never grow in the eyes of your family and although this may be a good thing, surely pampering must come to an end one day. Or at least in the eyes of people who see you as a mature person. Surely your fiancé might take off if they keep calling you ‘toto’ when he is looking for a mother to his children.