Published today in gulfnews : The youngest sibling.
Image for illustrative purposes only; via: http://www.etsy.com/listing/28116406/under-the-tree-siblings-silhouette-print
I have been an avid reader of this paper for the past few years. Often I have found myself nodding and chuckling over my Friday morning chai (tea) as I read Vanaja Rao’s Off the Cuff column. Last week’s column, however, almost made me choke over my breakfast.
She insisted that younger siblings usually have it easier because the parents have had an extensive trial and error experience with the older ones.
While I was happy to read about the writer’s experience, I, being the youngest of five children (all of them girls) underwent a starkly different experience.
I was born the last of five daughters when my mother had become nearly 40 years of age and my father had advanced to 50.
My mother’s life thus far had been any-thing but easy and it had taken its toll on her, both physically and emotionally.
Though my parents loved me and welcomed me into the world with open arms, age certainly wasn’t on their side.
I grew up in a big, rambling house where being the youngest, when you were a baby, was kind of nice. You were oh-so-cute and cuddly and got carried around and cooed over and pampered, but that stage didn’t last forever. Life happened and you began growing up and you were no longer that adorable little child.
My personality began to emerge and no longer fit the cute and cuddly mould. I too had a voice, an opinion to share, and strong views about things.
However, being the youngest of the lot meant I heard a lot of “You’re the youngest, let the elder ones discuss the matter,” or “Don’t interfere, you’re the youngest!” So did being the youngest mean my opinion did not matter? Did it mean my voice would not be heard?
And because we belonged to the typical eastern household, I could not utter a word of debate or adversity to my elder siblings because Mom and Dad would remind me, “Dear God! You’re the youngest and don’t you know how to respect your elders?”
It hardly helped that my older sisters were all docile and well-behaved by nature, while I was always hotheaded, outspoken and rebellious. I really don’t know if I have nature or nurture to hold responsible for it, but I managed to get into far more trouble than all my sisters put together!
It’s ironic that even now, when major decisions in the family are to be taken, I am sometimes told: “Let the elders discuss it. You are the youngest.”
Well of course, I will always be younger relative to the others, but now I am a grown woman with children of my own!
In retrospect, I sometimes wonder if the reason I got into writing and was first published in the national paper at 20 (and had only completed my A Levels) is that I always felt the need to be heard and had a burning desire to let the world know that I too existed. I found my own way in life and travelled on the path less trodden.
So, gladly, there are some positives in this situation too, as there are in just about everything.
As I observe my younger daughter and her strong-willed nature, I am inclined to tell her to behave herself. Perhaps I should back off a little and guide her to canalise her energy constructively. Maybe I should just let her be and let her express herself and find herself in her own special way.
After all, being the youngest does not mean you don’t have a voice.