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The youngest child is a place in the family that holds a special place in my heart. As an oldest, I have this sense of responsibility over a youngest. My father is the youngest of seven, and I recognize so many of the qualities he has that I know saved my sanity as I was raised. I also have my dear McKenna, who right now is the youngest and I have no sure idea if she will remain that way. She definitely displays many youngest child characteristics, many of which remind me of my Dad.
One of the traits Kevin Leman discusses for youngest children is that they are often in the limelight. They are outgoing charmers and personable manipulators. They are affectionate and uncomplicated. They do not worry. They are often the family clown and love to entertain. They love making people laugh, point, or comment.
These qualities, other than the manipulator part, all describe my Dad. He loves to make people laugh and was always playing jokes on his siblings–especially his poor sisters and his nieces and nephews. He has no worries–ever. This is a trait that I happily picked up. Chill and ready to take whatever comes in life. As a perfectionist oldest child, let me just say having a father who was so relaxed about life did wonders for my pshyche. He never drove me to do anything. He was supportive and applied no pressure in life. I did enough of that on my own, and had I had a father adding to it, I may have ended up with some problems.
Leman (who, by the way, is a last born) points out that this love of limelight can have a “dark side.” He points out they might ruin a family picture to get a laugh–even as a “responsible” adult! Okay, that is 100% my Dad also. I could probably count on one hand the number of family pictures with him in it without the bunny ears happening over someone’s head.
Last borns have the disadvantage of following siblings. Siblings who are taller, more coordinated, smarter, etc. Leman says parents get “taught out” by the time the last borns arrive and are less impressed with last born accomplishments. Maybe that is true for some…but not true for my Dad’s mom or even for my husband and I. My Dad’s mom is convinced that he is perfect. Absolutely perfect. Bright. Mr. Nice Guy. Those things are true, but he was a teenage boy once who did some things that I shake my head at. Nothing terrible, but my grandmother flat out refuses to believe it happened. Seriously. I have tried talking sense into her.
As for McKenna, she has two parents and two siblings who are impressed with every move she makes. We marvel at every word and laugh at every silly thing she does. She has the most doting audience a person could ask for. So I don’t think she will grow up thinking she isn’t as capable. As of now, I can tell she is quite pleased with herself at all times.
Leman quotes from a book called First Child, Second Child where the authors say some last borns become adept at charming the world while others realize the only way to gain attention is to make a mess. Somehow, McKenna has picked up on both of those things 🙂
Leman states “…one of our major traits is persistence” (page 185). Oh my. How true that is for my father and my daughter. How very true. McKenna is the epitome of tenacity. I have commented many times that so long as I can help her have worthy goals, she will be just fine because absolutely nothing could distract her from them.
Leman’s strengths list includes likable, fun to be around, easy to talk to, read others well, do well in social settings, tenacious, caring, lovable, want to help, like praise, relaxed, genuine, trustworthy, entertaining, and funny. These are all things I see in my father and McKenna. I can honestly say I have never met someone who doesn’t like my dad. There are few people I introduce him to that don’t comment sometime on what a great person he is. Even at McKenna’s young age, she has some magical ability to gain the attention of people around her. She doesn’t reach out or do anything, she just has some look she gives that draws people to come comment on how cute she is.
But of course, there are weaknesses that come along with position, too. These include manipulative, flaky, undisciplined, can push too hard, gullible, easy to take advantage of, make decisions with too much feeling and too little thought, self-centered, temperamental, spoiled, and impatient. None of those things are true for my dad or McKenna thus far. But I will say that my dad has commented that he has changed a lot as he has gotten older and that he used to be hot-headed. And I know he was spoiled when my parents got married. Remember his Mom? Yeah. He had never even made a bed when he got married. So he has come a long way.
So, how does this information hold to the people you know who are youngest children?
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