Struggles only the baby of the house understands

Wednesday, June 7th, 2023 10:30 | By
Struggles only the baby of the house understands
Jokes and memes have been created describing how last borns ‘get away with everything’ and are ‘clearly the family’s favourite’. However, being in this position isn’t always as glamorous as many people think. PHOTO/Courtesy

At Wachira Mungai’s home, one might think that Trevor Mungai is the only child. He is five years and has an 12-year-old sister, called Patience. However, many are the times Trevor gets away with almost anything.

“Why are you harassing him? Let him watch what he wants. He is just a baby. You were also a baby once, and you enjoyed your turn. Let Trevor enjoy his,” their mother, Maggie Nyambura would yell.

It has become a common thing in many households that the youngest is most of the time favoured. This does not only apply to children as even adults are sometimes babied. 

Emma Wangari relates to this. “When I was young, I wasn’t allowed to do things unless my parents knew every detail or my older brother came with me. I am the lastborn, so I was babied a lot. As I got older, it was no different. I felt like my parents encouraged me to be paranoid. This was mostly after secondary school. She would tell me how girls can easily be tricked out there,” she explains.

Even after completing college and getting a job, Emma says that her mum would tell her not to move out, because as she would put it ‘life is difficult out there’. This was just because she didn’t want to let go of her. She realised it was a problem when a friend of hers observed that Emma’s mum still talked to her like she was a 10-year-old. Her mum would always ask her where she was and who she was with. Sometimes she would call her friends just to confirm if they were together. This forced Emma to lie anytime she was out, so that her mum would be at ease.

“It was irritating and it affected my self-confidence. My father never had a problem. I would tell him where I was going and he wouldn’t ask questions. He left all of that to my mum who was too paranoid. It took a lot of effort and persuasion, but after a while, I broke free and moved on with my life,” she recalls.

More treats and cuddles

A recent study found out that parents are more likely to side with a younger child in an argument, lavish them with more attention, let them have their own way and spend longer time with them. The study also found the younger one also benefits from more treats and cuddles, because their parents find it harder to say ‘no.’

The baby’s ‘first’ milestones become a significant ‘last time’ for them. And because they aren’t quite ready to give up their parenting role, they tend to reward the child even when the behaviour is dependent or immature.

Being babied too much as a toddler or as an adult can equally have effects on the individual, as explained by psychologist James Mbugua. When parents baby a child, the other siblings will feel that the child is too protected or favoured and hence may lead to sibling rivalry as they try to push the child out of their comfort zone.

He adds that you can only protect your child so much from reality until you rob them of developing the necessary skills to deal with issues. Consequently, the child will have issues dealing with how the real world works. The role of the parents as they raise their children, is to make them independent. This is by teaching them some of the life skills and letting them try on their own. This helps them become self-sufficient.

“Children and adults who are babied most of the time have difficulty making decisions and lack the wherewithal to become successful in life. Furthermore, being babied makes it hard for an individual to deal adequately with hardships of life, because they have a low tolerance for frustration,” Mbugua notes.

For young children, they often fall prey for bullies, as they are an easy target. This is because they don’t have much social survival or emotional skills outside their homes. And for adults, because they are used to everything being done for them, they always have issues at work, or in their homes. Many don’t understand struggles of life, so they act spoilt.

Who says the youngest ones only face challenges at home! Their school life has its own set of challenges. They are always compared to their siblings. Most of them have been told, “Your elder sibling was such a good student”, at least once by their teacher. You are always referred as their younger brother or sister. In fact, teachers recognise you by your sibling’s face, like you never had your own identity.

But don’t think that just because they are lastborns they can’t speak up for themselves. In fact, a study by E Hoff-Ginsberg in Applied Pyscholinguistics found that younger siblings had more advanced convervational skills, perhaps from working harder to make themselves heard.

Myths and misconception

Also, it has always been assumed that only firstborns are risk takers. But latest research shows that youngest children are far more likely to rebel against authority, maybe because (as research from Duke University and Washington University found), the severity of the punishment is less for younger children. As an adult, this means they’re less scared of rules because they were so often allowed to get away with it.

And while some people are wary of marrying lastborns because of the claims that they love attention, Mbugua says they spice up the relationship with their adventurous and risk-taking nature. Along with observing, youngest siblings can often sail through the chaos that surrounds them, because they grew up doing that. They have the benefit of growing up watching their older sibling(s) make mistake after mistake, and come back from it. Therefore, they aren’t the type to freak out or have a knee-jerk reaction, they know failure or disappointment is natural.

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