The Secrets of Being the Baby of the Family

In almost every family, each sibling thinks they have it the toughest. The eldest paves the way, the middle child is forgotten, and the youngest—well, supposedly, they’re spoiled. People envy the youngest children for “having it easy”—I know my sister thinks I get everything before she did. I get into countless fights with her over who has it harder: in her words, it’s a battle between the “guinea pig” and the “one who gets everything.” In reality, however, being the baby of the family is not as easy as everyone thinks.

My parents tell me that I’m the golden child, but I just can’t seem to meet the standards my siblings set. While my sister is away at college and my brother is here on campus, they create expectations that I feel pressured to live up to. Even when I was young, there were so many instances where I felt burdened to be just as—or even better than—my siblings. Almost any time I’m somewhere with my extended family, someone is always there to compare me to my siblings. These expectations I “must” live up to restrict me to the shadow of my siblings. I’m held back while trying to fit myself into a mold and not being the true me. Being someone’s younger sibling makes it so much harder for me to find my own identity.

Similar to having to live up to certain expectations, there is also always the lingering feeling that I am in my siblings’ shadow. People always repeat the same comment of, “You should try being like your brother!” or “You are starting to be like your sister.” These comments feel impossible to escape. For one, my sister has always been the one who was good at Chinese. She was the one who spoke Cantonese as a kid and could speak fluent Mandarin with our grandparents. When I called my grandma and told her that I started speaking Chinese more, she said, “Wow, you’re growing to be like your sister! You can converse with her in Chinese now.” This comment unintentionally stressed me when I realized I was remotely taking after my sister. For just trying to practice a language my family speaks, I’m put into the shadows and reminded how much better she is at Chinese, even when she’s four years older. I always jokingly say, “Who’d want to be like my sister anyway?” even though I know deep down, I have instinctually wanted to live up to her accomplishments and intelligence. I shouldn’t have to live my life in my siblings’ shadow as I grow and try new things.

As the youngest, I also had to make sacrifices for my older siblings and constantly compared my experiences relative to theirs, thinking that they somehow had it “worse off” than I did. For example, I always feel as if my stress and worries aren’t as important or significant as those of my older siblings. When I was in seventh grade, I thought I wasn’t allowed to be stressed because my brother was a freshman at a completely new school away from home, but now that I’m a Junior in the same circumstance as he once was, I tell myself he still has it worse as an Upper. In life, my siblings will always be older than me and have their own problems, but I shouldn’t have to feel the need to keep myself from struggling or invalidate my own experiences because of what they have experienced. 

Many people see the youngest children as the spoiled ones, but it is just as hard, and sometimes even harder, for us to live our lives behind the siblings who come before us. It is difficult and tiring trying to avoid certain things just so I don’t have to worry about unwelcome comparisons or unhealthy expectations. It is difficult to find my identity without being forced into all that I am “meant” to surpass, at the same time being seen as the baby who has it all. It is strenuous when my feelings are invalidated just because I have older siblings. I am my own person. I am not just a little sister. Fight for your individuality and stand your ground against those that push you back into the shadows.