Birth order. According to child development characteristics, these are the expectations of my youngest child:
- Feels every one bigger and more capable.
- Expects others to do things, make decisions, take responsibility.
- Feels smallest and weakest. May not be taken seriously.
- Becomes boss of family in getting service and own way.
- Develops feelings of inferiority or becomes “speeder” and overtakes older siblings.
- Remains “The Baby.” Places others in service.
- If youngest of three, often allies with oldest child against middle child.
To a classroom-schooled expert, one would assume the above characteristics make sense. Yet, as I watch this little guy navigate through life as the youngest of four boys, not many of these characteristics are coming to fruition. No one in our household has time to baby him. Nor, does he seem to mind. He rarely gets “his” own way, because his way is usually what his idols’ (his brothers) way is. He can also be somewhat “tough.” He has a fierceness that appears in the presence of bigger kids, as if he believes he’s bigger than he really is. He is so undaunted by anyone larger than himself, that it makes me wonder if his bigger brothers have given him an “invisible force field” that towers over and above him. Or, this could just be him.
One characteristic that is blatantly missing in the expert’s characteristics of the youngest child is that of the “nurturer.” We were sending his bigger brother off to school, late as usual, and I heard this youngest boy echoing words I would say: “Now, don’t forget, I’ve put your raccoon in the back pocket of your backpack… and don’t forget this one.”I looked up at him, and saw his eyes focused intently on his big brother, in much the same way that I look when I’m packing one of his brothers off to school. He sounded just like me; the Mom; the nurturer. Although experts would say this is precisely the exact opposite characteristic of the “baby” in the family.
This is the characteristic of the youngest child the experts failed to include in their analysis. The “real-life” part of parenting that is overlooked, actually not included, in controlled studies. The youngest spends so much time with me, watching me send the big ones off to school, to practice, and to games. Something our oldest son rarely witnessed. The youngest learns how to send someone off into the world; and how to love.
More resources here, on the fascinating topic of birth order.