I am the youngest of four children, which makes me the “baby” of my family. Oddly enough, I was the first of my parents’ four children to start a family of my own.
Being the youngest in the family means a lot of different things growing up, whether that be some feeling of favoritism from your parents, as you are their last child, or being bullied by your older siblings because you’re the smallest amongst one another.
What’s interesting to me is that, to my older siblings, I was always going to be their ‘littlest sister’… never a peer, never an equal, never wiser, never an adult to some degree. But my parents, while they see me as their daughter, ceased pulling the ‘I’m your parent, I know better than you’ card on me years ago, much less now that I’m married and a mother.
“Adulting” is a word coined by Millennials as we entered this new age of self agency, that we use often when griping about our new responsibilities(i.e. bills, housing, taxes, etc.). Though it may appear that we complain a lot, we do happen to be quite self-deprecating in our humor about it all, and it really is, for the most part, just humor. Still we are entering a new phase in our lives where we are no longer just kids, or young people, or even young adults.
Now more than ever, we are becoming more than just sons and daughters, or brothers and sisters. We’ve started to become parents, moms or dads, and some of our compatriots are doing this thing very much on their own. It’s no longer about just self agency, but becoming the primary caregiver and decision maker for a tiny human, until they’re old enough to do these things on their own.
In the past, family’s role in my life was always an important factor, but the degrees of complexity of each of my relationships felt nominal to any sphere of influence or decision making process of my life, because I was the only one who had to deal with any consequence that might arise from whatever paths I walked. Now that I have the responsibility of guiding the path of my son, until he is old enough to make these decisions on his own, the complex relationships between my family members and I seem a little harder to navigate.
Do I think it’s all right, or appropriate, for my son to see his mother as the youngest child, and not just as his mother? Is the social/financial issue of a relative going to have a negative impact on my child’s life if I don’t set boundaries that cannot be crossed? I know that I can’t protect my son from everything, but do I limit or revoke access from negative attitudes and influences that would otherwise be too close if I did not act as a boundary myself?
Family relationships are both exceptionally complex, and difficult to deal with at times, especially so in times of transition. Even those who appear to have the most harmonious relationships with their families, will come to crossroads at some point.
For me, my family ties have always been a little more complicated than I’d have preferred, but they have become increasingly so as I’ve become the first of our nest to become a parent. Everyone wants to be involved in the life of a child of the next generation, it seems, but not everyone understands the impact that their words or actions might have on this next generation. While my siblings might not be able to see how our relationships have evolved and transformed over the years, to the degree that there is no ranking of oldest or youngest among us any longer, I have.
As a mother, what I’ve determined is that while I will always be associated with the nest that I came from and grew up in, I am now the matriarch and a leader of my own. Navigating from childhood to adulthood in terms of family, is not unlike starting out at a company that grows you and teaches you, then starting your own business.
I respect the role that my former associates played in impacting my own character, but I am ultimately partner in a new company that must charter our own articles of incorporation to determine how this new endeavor will succeed. This may seem like an oversimplification of the dynamics between family, but the complexities of running a successful business are not so overreaching in this aspect either.