Youngest Child Appreciation Day
I think there should be a Youngest Child Appreciation Day. I am a Youngest Child and I was under-appreciated. Not really, but this is typical of what most youngest children believe to be THE TRUTH. Upon deeper reflection, I believe that because youngest children grow up in the back seat of a car (Their changing table? The trunk. Their Kleenex? Mom’s hand. Their hairbrush? Mom’s fingers. Their holiday dress? A very-clean!-but-if-you-look-a-little-harder-slightly-stained dress/shirt their sister/brother outgrew), they develop a characteristic I like to think of as AWESOMENESS. They try harder to stand out. They talk LOUDER. They dance with more PASSION. They have to. They need to get noticed. It’s instinctual! It’s survival. How else does the smallest baby bird get the worm? The runtiest puppy get the teet? Youngest children will throw a tantrum that will put their siblings’ tantrums TO SHAME. Sad truth? It will still be ignored. What does this do? Creates more determination in the little buggers. And more determination = more AWESOMENESS.
I had a really great boss at my first job in medical sales. One time he told me his hands-down best hires had all been youngest children. It was such a pattern, he said, that he tried to find out where all of the applicants fell in their family order early in the interview process. For sales, I can completely see how this is true. As a kid, if I had given up every time an authority figure said no I would still be crying in front of the Baskin Robbins on the corner of 16th and Missouri. Instead, I developed YCPS, Youngest Child Persistence Skills. Excuse me, did you just say NO? Then I will phrase the question another way. I will ask it louder/ cuter/ funnier/ in another language. Still no? I will ask the other person who has a wallet in this place. No? I will pretend my sibling just punched me in the stomach and it REALLY HURT. What will make me stop screaming and tearing at my faded, ill-fitting clothes? Well, I guess I might feel a little better if you bought me a three scoop sundae with every topping in that hutch over there which is what I asked you for ten minutes ago but only just now are you starting to see THE LIGHT. I can hear it in your pause and see it in your eyes that your emphatic No! just took a right toward Yes Avenue. And now I will throw in a little SWEETNESS to secure the deal. Blink blink nuzzle. You see how we sell stuff? We youngest children are SCRAPPY!
As a parent of three girls ranging from 13-6 years old I think it is interesting to observe how I treat my youngest, being that I am one. Youngest children are babies for about a week. After that they will fight like their life is on the line for everything their siblings have. If it were up to my two older kids, I would still be cutting their food and tying their shoes. My youngest? I had better back away from her shoes if I want to keep my teeth. Don’t even think about helping me, with anything, her tiny yet fierce glare communicates. My husband and I call this the look and it is quite unmistakable. Sidebar- It’s possible I wouldn’t help her anyway since I’m so freaking busy trying to perfect the universe for Oldest Child, thus ensuring her complete inability to deal with life’s inevitable challenges. You’re welcome.
Here’s another thing I notice in the parenting of my youngest child- I try to fix her less. Maybe intuitively we know that our youngest children will turn out fine since they have always worked so hard to level the playing field (or tilt it slightly in their direction). They need us less since they have had to advocate so hard on their own behalf. Admission- I don’t even correct words my youngest says incorrectly. Her grammar? Yes, I correct that. I am my mother’s daughter after all. But the following are words she says that I leave alone: egg-venture, egg-mergency, gum-astics, oynj (as in, I can peel my oynj myself, Mom!), and buck-load (She must have heard her sisters say buttload! I would have never set that word free in front of my offspring! Although she is the youngest… so maybe…). I see three reasons for letting these words be: 1) FATIGUE. I am tired from chasing two older kids. I know she won’t say egg-venture forever so why expend the energy to fix it? 2) ENTERTAINMENT. As in, hee hee, let’s see how long it will take her to stop saying egg-venture! And, 3) SENTIMENTALITY/ CLINGING TO YOUTH. Sniff, sniff, honey did you hear her just say egg-venture? She is still a baby. She will always be our baby.
Here is where I come full-circle and ask you to agree that heck yes! Youngest children, while ignored, subjected to fashion not chosen for them, and generally left to raise themselves, should be recognized for the awesomeness they develop on their own. Don’t you agree? Great! Then let’s put aside a day to appreciate all the youngest children out there! We fought so hard to be relevant early on and it is now our time to be honored. Isn’t it amazing that we know exactly when and where to push the ‘cry now’ button? Our timing is impeccable. Here’s to us. But let’s agree not to tell Hallmark about this new-found appreciation of ourselves. Why make it official and subject ourselves to ad campaigns that will make us ‘cry now’ when we watch commercials/ check Facebook in the month leading up to the day devoted to US? If we became awesome by being ignored, it is plausible that outward, heartfelt appreciation of us might spoil the whole phenomenon. So please, don’t acknowledge us, to our faces at least, but from here on out, every year on this day, make a point to appreciate us inside your heads, and most especially, inside your hearts. What I mean is, love us just a hair more than you love our older siblings. I won’t tell if you won’t tell…