The Youngest Child Struggle

What It Really Means To Be The Youngest Child

Birth order stereotypes aren't a great reason to claim you understand someone.

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People tell me that I'm the "stereotypical youngest child," whatever that means exactly. Usually, people throw it around to mean the parents' favorite, the one who rules don't apply to, or that I'm "the baby." But those labels tend to come the most from people who didn't grow up as the youngest.

I am my parents' third and last child--all of whom were girls. When I was born, my mom quit her job to raise the three of us. When both my sisters were in school, I was woken up during my naps to go with my mom on errands and to pick them up. I was always with my mom, I rarely ever had a babysitter. When I started first grade, my mom started a new job where she was a teacher assistant for first-grade classes at a different school. So when I got off the bus in the morning, my mom was still waiting for me. Because of this, my mom and I have always been very close. That is why people believe I'm the favorite child--even though I can promise you I'm not.

As I got older, my mom got different jobs and worked different hours and I started spending less and less time with her. I was constantly involved in other things. I have played sports since I was three years old. My parents enrolled me in ballet because my sisters did it. Two years later, my parents signed me up for softball. Two years after that, I started basketball. All of those things came about because my two older sisters had done them. While basketball was my choice to start, the other two really weren't. I found that I stuck to sports longer than my sisters did, that I tended to be better at sports than they were, as I was naturally more athletic. I did ballet for a little under ten years, softball until I got to high school and basketball through freshman year in high school. Sports were a major part of my life--and still kind of are, just now in a more observer role than a participant. Although I made them my own, they began because of my sisters. And so I was always compared to them.

Don't even get me started on academics. For some reason, I got the smart genes in my family. In high school, my oldest sister got a few C's, but mostly B's and some A's. My other sister was a solid A/B student. When I finished the first semester of sophomore year, I was a straight-A student. However, the following semester, I got a B in AP European History. One B, mind you, and my parents were furious. B's had been commonplace for my sisters, but for me, they were poison, apparently. I ended up getting only a few more B's in high school, and the lectures never ceased for a second.

When it came time for applying to schools, my dad had this four-hour limit--meaning I, nor my sisters, could go to a school farther than four hours away. Coming from the Chicagoland area, that wasn't necessarily a hard thing to do. However, I always wanted to go far away from home. The middle daughter in my family was able to stretch that rule to five hours. When my dad found out that I was looking into schools like NYU and UCLA, he shrunk mine back down to three and a half--four if he was in a good mood. If I went further, I'd have to pay for it. Originally, I had gotten into my dream school of NYU and accepted. My sisters were adamant that they'd help in any way that they could financially. However, after a few weeks of stewing on it, the guilt started to eat me alive. I knew I couldn't do it. I couldn't ask my sisters to pay for my college. So I gave up my dream to conform to my dad's rule.

And that's not to say I'm not happy at Butler, because I am--I've had so many opportunities here I wouldn't have gotten anywhere else.

But how's that for the "selfish child?"

My whole life my sisters have turned to me for advice. Whether the advice is about boys or friends or school or work or travel or secrets or how much they should actually divulge to Mom and Dad, they pretty much always turn to me. I have the least amount of experience with all of the above things out of the three of us (except the friends part probably) but they look for my opinion. In return, I'm not afraid to be brutally honest with both of them. And honestly, because of this, I sometimes forget that I'm actually the youngest out of us.

My point in all of this is that the youngest children aren't stereotypically anything. We're not always the parents' favorite, we're not all selfish. The rules don't always bend for us. But no one is there to see what happens at home after the older siblings leave for college and the youngest is alone. They don't witness the change in atmosphere. It's not always flowers and sunshine.

And, in all seriousness, we don't always need to be looked after. A lot of us find our own way to thrive on our own.

However, it takes us a long time to figure that out. We often live in the shadows of our siblings, expected to be like them, to follow what they do. Our siblings are the only examples we have. But once we figure out exactly what will make us happy, we fight hard for it. We take risks. We become a whole new person once we escape the shadows. And that's something no one can take away from us.

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15 Things You Realize As Your Baby Brother Grows Up

No matter how old he gets, he will always be your baby brother.
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Despite the fistfights and days of locking each other out of the house, a little brother is one of the biggest blessings you can receive. Most sisters can agree that they probably bossed their brothers around a lot when they were younger (and probably still do). Most sisters have also most likely forced their brothers to participate in many games that were only enjoyable for one party (baby dolls, house, dress up, etc.)

As a little brother grows up, you start to realize a lot of things as they become your lifelong best friend. Here are 15 of them:

1. He will outgrow you

Even though you were once able to beat him in a wrestling match, and have a fair game of tag, as you get older, he begins to pass you up in size and you realize it probably isn't in your best interest to pick a fight.

2. Teenage boy sass is a real thing

So many times, girls get a bad rep for the teenage phase, but let me tell you, teenage boys have just as much sass if not more than the average hormonal girl. But you also realize that you will get through it, and he is still your sweet brother somewhere deep, deep down.

3. He will go through a phase when he is too cool for you

Your whole life you have been used to your little brother looking up to you and wanting to be just like you and do all the things you do. This probably really annoyed you at some point too and I know I found the words "stop copying me" coming out of my mouth a lot. Don't wish it away, enjoy these times because there hits a point where he will want to do their own thing for a while.

4. He will begin to form his own opinions, and he is actually really smart

He still looks up to you, but there comes a time when he actually starts to contradict and challenge your opinions, and his arguments are surprisingly really good. You learn a lot from your little brother, so start listening to what they have to say sometimes.

5. No girl will ever be good enough for him

When he brings a girl home, you can't help but judge everything about her (no pressure) because to you, no girl will match up to his awesomeness. You know you are annoying, over-controlling, and overly judgmental, but you can't help it, he is your baby brother after all.

6. Regardless of how old or big he gets, if anyone messes with him, you will "beat them up"

I am not a fighter, but somehow anytime someone messes with my little brother, I get the ego of Muhammad Ali and believe that I can beat anyone up. Even now that he has outgrown me by about six inches and 50 pounds and is definitely a lot stronger than me, I still threaten to protect him because for some reason I feel like I can defend him better than he can himself. If anyone shoves him on the soccer field or says something mean to him at school, all of a sudden the big sister is the most intimidating and feisty little 5'4" girl there is out there.

7. He has your back

The once quiet and shy boy you outspoke as a child is not afraid to stand up for you. Even if he knows you're wrong, he is just as protective of you as you are of him and he will always be there for you whether you need a shoulder to cry on, you've had a fight with your friends and need someone to talk to, or a guy blows you off and you just need dairy queen and a movie night.

8. People will think he is your boyfriend and vice versa

As little kids, you were obviously the big sister, but now that he has outgrown you, hit puberty, and matured, people mistake him as your boyfriend all the time. When you go to dinner and get the "You are such a cute couple" comment, you can't help but laugh.

9. All of his academic success is obviously all thanks to you

All the days you forced him to play "school" with you and tried to teach him everything you knew paid off because he actually knows what he is doing now. You're welcome.

10. Every year he turns another year older, you freak out because you remember how old you felt when you were his age, and it is not possible for him to be that old

No, no, no. He is little. He cannot drive just because he is 16. That is scary. (Only you were mature enough and ready to drive at 16.) There is no way that he is already 18 and can vote. You will never get used to the fact that he is growing up at the same pace as you are.

11. He is the one person who defies your theory that you are never wrong

He always has your best interests in mind, so if he disapproves of a guy, or questions a choice you are making, he is most likely right, just listen to him. Seriously, it will save you time in the future.

12. You will always worry about him

Yes, you are annoying and you know he can handle himself, but the thought of him ever getting hurt kills you. Every time he goes out or takes a risk, you worry about him. However, you also know and trust that he is smart and makes good choices, and if he ever doesn't, you will always be here to save the day, duh!

13. You are his biggest fan

And you are absolutely obnoxious at sporting games and other events. You are the first person to yell at the referee when he gets fouled and the loudest person screaming when he scores a goal. You also find yourself bragging about him to your friends because you are just so proud, and you taught him everything he knows (duh, again).

14. He is your best friend

You can tell him anything and he can tell you anything. You guys have a pact and he won't tell your secrets. He's your person, and you have come to find out that he actually gives great advice when you give him the chance to talk.

15. No matter how old he gets, he will always be your baby brother

No matter how old my brother gets, we still say "I love you" every night and he will always be my little baby brother who I watch over and protect, always. I know I have a lifelong best friend who I can lean on during hard times, and celebrate with when the times are good. Bless up.

Special shoutout to my baby brother, Luke, for teaching me so much about myself and always being there for me.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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To The Sister About To Move Away, Girl, You've Got This

You may not physically be here right now, but you're always with our family.

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You were there on the day I was born, somehow sleeping soundly as our mom gave birth to me. I'll never forget the photograph of her presenting me to the world and you sitting beside her, holding up your newly-purchased beanie baby with pride as if being handed this toy was equal to the miracle of birth.

It was a crab, by the way, which somehow makes it funnier.

Growing up, you loved to trick me. You'd make me do chores for you and steal my favorite Barbies, but I think that's just part of being an older sister. I'd stick my tongue out at you and cry out the same phrase, "Mooooom, Sissy is being mean to me!" In fact, I yelled this phrase so often that it began to take on a musical quality.

You were mean at times, but you always had my back. You physically beat up other children that had wronged me, and you let me crawl into your bed so we could watch TV together and exchange stories. We'd often immerse ourselves in fantasy worlds where we were princesses and we rode unicorns side-by-side.

But we grew up, and our fantasy world evaporated like the muddy puddles we'd play in after stormy nights. One second it was there, and then, it was just gone. I remember having a conversation a few years back where we wondered if we had known the last time we played Barbies would, in fact, be our last.

When I was a seventh grader, you were a junior in high school. Our problems were very different back then, but that didn't stop us from talking endlessly about them. We were so similar. We bonded over cheerleading, cute boys, books and music. But even more than that, we bonded over our similar life views and questions about the universe. We both possessed an innate love for life yet we were both distrustful of society's guidelines.

Watching you enter new life phases enthralled me. I thought, Wow, that will be me someday. I danced around the house in each of your four prom dresses, my imagination taking me to a place much grander than a high school gymnasium. Through your stories, I romanticized the future and hoped that I would be as cool as you.

It was a little tough at times, though, always longing for a different part of life. When I entered junior high, all I wanted was to be in high school. When I entered high school, I decided college was much cooler because that's what you said. And you were certainly right about that one.

You were the only one I felt comfortable sharing my writing with, the only one I knew could read the meaning behind my sideways glances. We just got each other in every way.

And we still do. To this day, you are one of the people I love and trust most. I don't know what I am going to do without you by my side, as you've been right there for 20 years. But I'm so proud of you. Of the many things we would lay around and talk about throughout the years, one topic persisted: moving away. Moving used to be a pipe dream, something beautiful that lived in your mind but would never come to pass.

And then you took a chance. And now that dream is a reality.

I want you to know how much I admire you. You are so incredible and resilient. I've never met anyone so strong-minded and willing to fight for what she believes in. You would never compromise yourself or your values for another person, but you are generous with others and so kind-hearted.

You are curious about the world and have a desire to learn about life and the richness it has to offer. That is a special quality that cannot be learned. You are beautiful in every way and are truly a blessing to have as a sister.

And it is from these very qualities and so many others that I know you will do great on your own. Sure, it's super tough at first; nobody said it would be easy. But if anyone can do it, then that person is certainly you.

I will always cherish our moments together, and you can always count on me to be there on the sidelines cheering you on, no matter where your adventure takes you.

Much love,

Your Little Sis

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