Siblings, friends of a lifetime
When it comes to being the youngest of four siblings, there are just some ways your development is going to be affected, albeit subconsciously, and you’d never know it. I’m a firm believer in intrafamilial relative age as a largely influential factor on your early childhood development, which in turn continues to affect the way your personality blossoms later in life.
Oldest siblings are responsible, caring and have more of a nurturing twang to them. Youngest kids are more inconsiderate, sassy, attention grabbing. Middle kids are, well, somewhere in the middle.
Now I do generalize, but I also recognize this view of mine could very well be a lifetime of confirmation bias; I get my hypothesis approved because I only process and see that which would help my theory. Nevertheless, it’s the way I perceive the world, and there’s nothing that could make it objectively wrong, because it’s pragmatically right for me.
Knowing I was born into the household of an already complete family changes the way I view myself and my role within my family. My Dad was 40, my Mom 36, Vanessa was 12, Veronica 11, and Mikey 9. For a couple of years, I was just the gazing, drooling baby in a highchair at dinner, when my siblings were already learning arithmetic, kissing boys and throwing balls around. I didn’t really grow up with anyone; if anything, I observed my siblings grow up. I was six when Vanessa left for college, and in those following years running into my adolescence and teenage years, I observed everything from a distance, left as an only child at home.
This isn’t a cry for pity, because as you will see I don’t dislike my own situation. But no one ever really listened to me. My parents were burnt out already and unprepared for the surprise of a pregnancy, leaving me to fend for myself more than most of you. I know if my mother read this she would adamantly disagree, but again, it’s my own perception of the situation. I didn’t have a voice in my family until recently. I was always the baby who didn’t understand, who they couldn’t wait to see grow up, who the older kids thought was so adorable, yet would always stop talking once I came into a room.
Today I am amused at finding the connections between that version of Valerie and my current version. I’m still always observing from a distance, and I still do things that no one around me really does. I’m a sore thumb, a tagalong, inquisitive, and you have to take most things I say lightly. I’m brutally honest when I want to be, because that was the only way I could get anyone in my family to listen to me. I’m a tagalong and I’m drawn to people older and more mature than I am. I remember people’s ages, and I always assume my superiors won’t take what I say seriously.
It’s a curse and a blessing. I have insecurities about my position in society relative to others, but I get to learn a lot about other people because I pay such close attention to them. I have to think twice about what I tell my sisters, anticipating a 30-something’s response to my stereotypical 20-something’s activities and opinions, but I have free room and board in Manhattan, Cleveland, and Sao Paolo.
This isn’t my space to preach, but I hope reading this makes you think about your siblings and appreciate what characteristics of yours they can be responsible and appreciated for. Family is the only group of people who can be consistently relied on throughout life, and the only group of people who relishes your past and could tell you anything. Your life is a book of history, but you’re not the author.
_Valerie’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at email@example.com. _