I wanted to write about my grandmother’s advice on not marrying a youngest child. I wanted to talk about how, even though she was happily married for over 50 years to a youngest child, she still understood the difficulty of putting up with the baby of the family. I wanted to mirror that with my own marriage where both my husband and I are youngest children, and talk about how I now understand what she had been telling me for all those years.
I started this post over four months ago. It’s something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time and I just can’t seem to figure out how to get it out. I decided to revisit it again this week, but it just ended up seeming too forced and I came off way too self-important (which, funnily enough, is a result of my being a youngest child).
So forget what I wanted to say. Here’s what I’m going to say:
I’ve mentioned in previous posts (here and here) that I am a youngest child. I think that nearly all of my personality traits stem from this fact and, for the most part, I’m okay with that. It’s true that I am selfish, but that selfishness has led me to stand up for myself in situations where I wasn’t being treated fairly. Because I am often thinking about myself and my own well-being, I very rarely get taken advantage of or used by others. It’s also true that, as a result of being a youngest child, I’m stubborn…and impertinent…and constantly feel like I have to prove myself. And those traits occasionally antagonize others.
I’m painfully aware of all of this.
But at the same time, I’m a big believer that there’s no such thing as a true virtue or flaw. There is good and bad in both virtues and flaws alike. As mentioned above, while being selfish isn’t exactly a good quality or something to be proud of, good things have stemmed from it nonetheless. Another trait of mine that has resulted from being a youngest child is that I’m very driven. Growing up, I always felt that I didn’t get enough credit for my accomplishments, and so I worked extra hard to receive accolades. Being driven is usually considered a virtue and I won’t deny that it has benefitted me many times over, in both my career and my relationships. However, being driven has also led me to create competition where there shouldn’t have been any; it has led me to resent those that I can’t beat; it has propelled me into depression and apathy when I couldn’t meet the expectations I set for myself; and it has caused me to go after things that I didn’t really want just to prove that I could get them.
My husband and I fought a lot our first year of marriage. Like, a WHOLE lot. And the overarching theme of almost all our fights boiled down to one thing: we are both youngest children and want to be acknowledged. We were both overshadowed by an older sibling for most of our existence and the effects of that are still prevalent more than a decade after living in the same household as said sibling. We’re both bull-headed and self-interested and just want to be heard and considered. And once we figured that out, our fights significantly decreased. While the fights haven’t and likely never will fully cease, they have become more tolerable, which is really all I can ask for in terms of marital squabbles.
In my grandfather’s case, being a youngest child meant that he always expected to get his way. There was a relatively large gap between him and his closest sibling and as such, he was very much the baby of the family in every respect. In the 20 years that he and I shared this planet, while I loved and adored him, I saw this side of him all too often. And maybe this is why I was the closest with him of all my grandparents, because I saw myself in his actions. Because I recognized his youngest child syndrome in myself.
My grandmother passed away on March 31st this year. It was smack dab in the middle of busy season and added yet another burden to my already overloaded shoulders. In the days that followed, amidst the last-minute travel arrangements and the harrowing reminiscences of her life, I kept wondering what advice she still had yet to give me. Coupled with that were the flashbacks to my grandfather’s passing, in which I missed his funeral because I was studying abroad in Spain and couldn’t afford to make it back in time. And it is because of these memories that I wanted to get my grandmother’s advice out into the world, even if the advice was mostly in jest on her part.
My grandmother showed me that it is possible to love someone even when there are things about them that drive you nuts. That is the biggest lesson I have taken into my marriage and I will be forever grateful to her for teaching me such an important truth. I continue to miss her, but I know that her guidance will endure throughout my marriage, and whenever my husband is on my last nerve, I can think back on my grandparents and remember how happy they were, even when they annoyed the hell out of each other.