Being the Baby

Jun 6, 2013

Two-year-old Gabby strode confidently into the play group.  When I asked where her big sister was, she replied soberly, “At ‘chool.”  Gabby was more than glad to have a “’chool” of her own to attend that day.

As a “little sister” myself, I understood her angst.  Its the work of the baby in every family to watch from the sidelines as older siblings leave home and do exotic-sounding things like go to preschool.

The baby of the family has a different sort of existence from the very beginning. While the firstborn has to prove to the world that his parents know how to raise children, the baby can instead bask in the glow of his family’s adoration. 

While the firstborn must blaze the trail of sometimes-frightening first experiences, the baby steps comfortably into a road that his family has already plowed.  The baby is rarely asked to venture out alone, and instead eagerly joins older siblings into the world they have already mastered.

Perhaps because their way is paved for them, lastborns tend to be idealistic risk takers who know few boundaries, like Copernicus, Bill Gates  and Harriet Tubman.  Affectionate attention seekers with good senses of humor, it’s no surprise successful comedians are over-represented in this group:  Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Drew Carey, Jim Carey, Rosie O’Donnell, Whoopi Goldberg, Stephen Colbert and Jay Leno among them.

Lastborn children show an interesting discrepancy between high and low self-esteem.  Nurturing from older family members and the examples they see in older siblings lead them to develop strong social skills, leading to their likeability and high self-esteem. 

But the downside for lastborns is that many of them grow up comparing themselves to older siblings who are always stronger, smarter and more accomplished during the growing-up years.  This comparison leaves some feeling inadequate.

In general, every birth order position can lead to success when children are respected as the individuals they are.  Babies of the family can achieve great things, just like their older counterparts, and what’s more, they’ll probably have more fun along the way.