Price and privilege
Being spoiled comes with a price. There is more to receiving extravagant birthday presents, Christmas gifts, and special treatment as the youngest child.
I was born when my mother turned 40. I have a 17-year age gap with my sister and 13 with my brother. I was referred to as the miracle baby because my mother was in her menopausal stage when I was brought into the world. Perhaps I have always been favored. But no one talks about feeling like a liability, and the grief that comes with knowing I have less time with my parents in this lifetime than my older siblings always had—the luxury I will never have.
The struggles of the eldest daughter have always been included in the discourse. Serving as the second parent of the younger siblings, most of them feel experimented on given that they were forced to grow up earlier than they should because of the responsibilities their parents imposed on them: chores, favors, and youngest siblings. All these the eldest daughter took care of. In the eyes of their parents, the eldest daughter is the good girl, who later on in life learns to suppress her emotions and needs. She is taught that she has to keep up with expectations to serve as the role model of the family. And although being the youngest comes with a privilege, it also comes with a price.
While the eldest is expected to take care of everyone and everything around her, I, in turn, have to impress everyone and cope with the pressure to follow in the footsteps of the elders and remain steadfast despite every change that happens at home. The change that comes when the eldest sister gets married. The change that takes place when the older brother leaves for work abroad. The change that turns into norms—coming home with the house empty, no one to eat dinner with.
There is the presence of distress that springs from being the apple of the eye, and being the last person who hears about major family news. The heartbreak when you fail at being their last hope of obtaining perfection. The carrying of burden that you cannot fail, not when your older siblings have already established their own paths in the career they decided to pursue. The grit you have to have and not break, not when your siblings have succeeded in overcoming their struggles before you can even comprehend what life is, and what you go through are overshadowed when they had it worse.
They smirk and say that the youngest solely receives gentle treatment but that does not equate to the attempts of being the golden child, and failing and falling like an avalanche every single time—feeling like my birth is one big accident that my parents failed to survive.
It is being perceived as a baby who they cannot turn to, even when I am already an adult, too. I never mention how it makes me feel left behind, especially when my opinion is never taken seriously just because I know least about how life works. Sure, they want to protect me from carrying another burden, but who wouldn’t want to carry the burden with the people whom they treasure the most? Who wouldn’t choose to struggle with them, instead of being happy on your own?
Being in an earlier development stage than the rest of the family leads to vulnerability and to trauma. When everyone got it figured out, the youngest still had to figure out how to handle her emotions on her own and live up to how her siblings did. When everyone already learned how to cope, one is stuck on comprehending what the circumstance is.
It was watching my Mama and Papa transform into seniors before I reached my 20s that I fully had a grasp of the time I have left with them while knowing that I am what is left over after my Ate and Kuya have decided who they are meant to be, and what they want to be.
The stereotype that the youngest always had it easier is instilled in society. But one thing remains, there is no need to claim who had the toughest time. Whether youngest or eldest, we all struggle—just differently.
Besides, I do not mind going through the struggles of being the youngest for I would not trade my family for the world.
Mary Kathleen Paz, 19, is a second-year legal studies student.