(You can catch up on G‘s story right here: A Third Baby, Fighting Panic, Connecticut to Oklahoma, You’ve Got the Job, The Birth Story, 95 Degrees, She struggles to breathe, I struggle to walk., The Liquid Diet, Not Enough Oxygen, Getting Out of There, Let’s Party!, Fitting Our Lives into a Minivan, Finding a Home, Remarkably Unremarkable, The Fever and the Screaming, One Answer Leads to More Questions, Her Kidneys, You’re STILL Nursing?, Fearless at 14 Months)
Somehow, I was always given the impression that youngest children do things late. I was told that they tend to talk late and learn how to do many self-care tasks later than their older siblings. It’s kind of a “youngest child syndrome.”
There are many different reasons for this. One is that they have older brothers and sisters who are able to help them and, often, do. Big sibs can sometimes understand the baby of the family even better than the parents and will talk “for them” or anticipate their needs before they really need to communicate them.
Parents are also busier when they have multiple children. You simply cannot sit down with your later-born children like you could with your first-born “only” and spend hours working on little tasks. Time becomes divided and that just is what it is.
Finally, some people coddle their “babies” because it’s sad to think you’ll never have a sweet little helpless one anymore. There’s something nice about being needed and, so, some parents don’t see any need to move those milestones along for their last-born children.
There are lots of reasons why youngest children might, I suppose, develop certain skills at a later age than their older sibs. Despite the fact that there is no evidence that this “delay” has any impact whatsoever on later development or success in life, it always kind of ticked me off to hear it. You see– I’m the youngest in my family. And I don’t like thinking I was ever slow or behind. (My mother will tell you that I was NOT. But I have no way of knowing for sure.)
G. is my youngest. And she definitely had a brother and sister at her beck and call. They loved their little baby sister and would have done anything for her. My first two were so close together that there’s no way they could help each other out in any way, really. But three years separate C. and G. It was different.
G., however, never got that memo.
Rather than allowing older siblings to do things or translate for her, she has always simply assumed she is their peer.
If she wanted to keep up with the conversations? She had to learn to talk.
If she wanted to be involved in the pretend play? She had to develop multiple inflections and a rich vocabulary.
If she wanted to keep up outside? She had to learn to run, climb, pedal, and jump.
So she did.
No pacifier, an open cup well before age one, and self-led potty-training by two. She just really never wanted much to do with “baby” things.
To this day, G. is more comfortable playing with the five- to seven-year-old set than the two- to four-year-old set. She has, in fact, referred to children her own age (or mere months younger) as “babies.”
Shocker of shockers– youngest children, like all children, are all unique. Some will hold on to babyhood for longer, others will lurch forward in an attempt to keep up with their in-house playmates. Some of this is due to the choices we make as parents, some is due to the personality of the child. Either way, they tend to do just fine later in life.
And, since G. is inarguably my little clone in pretty much every way, I’m going to guess my own mama is telling me the truth. I probably didn’t have the “youngest child syndrome” either.