Monday, November 16, 2009

A Raw Deal

I am the oldest child in my mother and father's family.

I am likewise married to an oldest child.

Being the oldest used to bring with it the frustrations of having to push the envelope and take the flack.

If an old standard needed changing, it was we oldest siblings who had to do the pushing to have it changed. If anyone was to be held responsible for stupid things done by all the children, it was the oldest.

I sometimes wondered if  being "the baby" was not a more enviable position.

I believe, in retrospect, that I was not a particularly considerate oldest sibling, in that, as I got closer to the age for leaving home I became focused on that happy event with self-centered tunnel vision.

I don't think I ever gave a second thought to the sisters and brother I left behind.

I'm quite sure I never phoned to talk to them, or wrote them letters.

Little wonder, then, that we drifted apart.

The first time I ever realized the impact of older siblings leaving home, was the year our two eldest were both away at school.

I was a little surprised to notice that the boys both seemed depressed.

They missed their sisters.

The house was too quiet.

The house was suddenly too big.

The boys felt the girls' leaving more than I did, I think.

When I had a chance, I told the girls of the impact their leaving was having and encouraged them to keep their brothers in the loop. Remember them, I said. They miss you.

They've done it well- much, much better than I did.

Having watched my children deal with growing up and leaving home I've changed my tune.

I think, all things considered, that being the youngest must be the hardest.

Yes, my children, you three all blazed the trail and his ride has been smoother because of you.

Yes, to many outward appearances, he has things and does things that you were never allowed to have and do at his age.


You were never alone.

Sometimes I know you wished you could be, but that is a very different thing to the actuality of being alone.

I would say that the youngest sometimes gets a raw deal.

And I'm continually amazed and impressed at the way our eldest all remember the youngest.

And at the way our youngest is able to be the youngest. He does it well, and he does it, for the most part, uncomplainingly.


  1. No, Lauralea, to my way of thinking, the middle child gets the what you call a raw deal. The eldest is Mom's pet, the youngest is Dad's pet and the middle child is just that, the middle child. Could be wrong though.

  2. having been the youngest for, oh, 30 years now, I'd say it's not too bad a deal - my middle sister would also claim that she had the raw deal (to echo Jean). Even the being alone part, in a way, it was nice - noone to fight with, noone to occupy the shower or eat the good snacks or use mom & dad's time/attention when I needed or wanted it...

  3. Remember the youngest has the experiences of the older ones to draw from. That includes what you did and did not allow them to do and, at what age they were allowed to do those things. And he DOES remember all of it. Not a day goes by that my youngest does not repeat what she will be able to do just like her siblings. Now, I have to keep track of when and what I said yes or no to. Heaven help me if I say yes too early or alter my answer for the youngest. It's a slippery slope, and my memory ain't gettin any better!

  4. I guess we might all have different comments on this depending on our own sibling experiences - no right answers here.

    But what shines through for me in this post is what good and considerate parents you are for all your children whatever their order of birth.

    Believe it !!

  5. I always liked being the oldest. My only complaint was that I always wanted a cool older sibling, like, 5 years older than me. But you would've had to have that kid when you were 19, and I'm not sure how well that would've worked out.

    I don't think I'm a very good older sister, but I've been making an effort since moving out. Which is more than I did when I lived at home, I think.