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.