So I am the youngest in a family of four kids. My eldest brother is 16 years older than me, followed by my sister who is 10 years older, and then my second brother, he is a ‘mere’ 5 years older than me. My parents had me in their early forties, and currently they are in their mid to late 70s. Here are some of my experiences being the youngest in the family along with the big age gap between me and my siblings, and the good and bad that comes along with it.
When you are at your prime your parents are getting on in age
You worry about their health, their well being more although I was only in my twenties back then, versus when my eldest brother graduated from university, they were relatively young in their late forties to early fifties (heck I was only 8 years old that year, a ball and chain to my parents still). When I had my own kids in 2016 my parents were too aged to keep up with them ( I had my eldest child the year my mum turned 70 years old, and my dad was 72).
You tend to stay back (in the same country at least) partly because you worry about them and thinking they may need one of us kids to be around, in my case geographically I’m the closest in distance to my parents location, although they stay in a different state in Malaysia. My 3 siblings are either in another country or across the sea (literally). With any issue, usually I will be the first to know, and we update each other in a family chat group ( thank goodness for technology). They will usually find me even for day to day issues like ‘how to upload my dad’s work to his university’s google drive (yes he still doing his part time masters) , or how to clear history/storage from their phones, how to pay bills online etc.
You feel alone when it’s just you and your parents
Due to the age gap, your older siblings would have left home to university by the time I’m 12yo , and later on get married settle down in another country or state. Mostly it was just me and my parents at home then, and when both parents are at work, its just me at home alone. Apart from that, I only see my older siblings once or twice a year during their university semester breaks or during Chinese new year when they take off work to visit, or we visit them in Singapore. My eldest brother actually left home to study in Singapore via scholarship at 15 years old, and I was only born the following year after that. To this day, growing up I felt he was like an uncle who visited us twice a year as I never grew up with him in the same house.
You watch your older siblings fight with your parents
… and you are only a spectator because your still too ‘young too understand’ . They were a few times when things were tense at home, due to disagreements on my siblings decisions on where to study after school, what majors to do in university, to their selection of partners, and what jobs they did.
You watch your parents argue with each other more
It can be hard when you are the only kid at home when your parents argue. Sometimes my dad would vent out to me, or my mum would as I am the third person in these situations , the neutral kid. I had no siblings to turn to back then, so I internalized it.
You see them retire when you’re still in school
My dad never stopped working though, after 58 he got employed as a lecturer at private university, while my mum work at private tuition center as a manager for a year before she turned 60. We made do, it helped that my eldest brother and sister were working and self sufficient at that time. I was then still in high school / teenager.
You dread their birthdays
I sorta ‘dread’ in a way every birthday of theirs after they’ve turned 70 because with each year that passes they grow older and I lose a bit more of the lively healthy mum and dad from my youth. Since we stay apart, every time I meet them I see more white hairs, their slower walk, and get updates on their medical conditions. Generally they are healthy for their age but I do not look forward to seeing them age older, especially now when I’m having my own kids and babies , I feel the need to stretch myself to care for both age groups at opposite ends.
Here’s what’s not so bad about being the youngest
I learned from my older siblings mistakes.
I don’t need to elaborate, plus to keep the privacy for my family, I would not share details but there were difficult times within our family.
More one to one time with my parents,
It was just me and them the years after I turned 12 years old, and I get their full attention.
You somehow always feel ‘young’ ,
After a decade of being called ‘baby’ at home by all of them (parents and siblings), and always hearing siblings give accounts of their life experiences, you sorta feel, younger., even though I no longer am young. Heh.
You get told by your parents of how much they wanted you
They’ve told me how they really wanted one more child. It’s a plus knowing I was a planned baby (at least that’s what they keep telling me, for all I know I may have been an ‘opps’, and that’s totally fine too, they loved me as best as they could ). Maybe they see the need to justify my existence in the family, anyway it never bothered me that they were older than my friend’s parents when I was growing up.
You get to become an aunty way earlier
Fun fact, I am closer in age to my niece than I am to my brother (her father), she was born the year i turned 12 years old, and since the I was Aunty Rebecca. That’s a fun plus to have in my opinion.
I’ll end this post here, for those who are planning to have kids, above are some challenges and benefits of having kids spread apart so far in age, at least from the kids perspective. One good thing I can at least say is that each of us 4 kids did have a good few years being the youngest and not sharing the spotlight with another kid who is 1-2 years older or younger than you, less fights in general between us kids. Just food for thought.