There is a defiant stubbornness that comes with the territory of being the baby in the family.
(I’ll stop here to note that Lexi has already rolled her eyes and said something like, “he uses such big words!” or something like that.)
Social scientists and psychologists would argue that because of the ten year gap between my birth and my decade-older sister Rachel, that I should exhibit the behaviors of an only child due to the age gap. Nothing could be further from the truth. Due to a variety of family situations and other factors, I grew up very much my sister’s almost contemporary. When she was 16 (and I was 6), I started “General Hospital Kissing” her varsity volleyball teammates under the bleachers. I will not go further in describing the other ways that I attempted to “act my pretend age” but there were many and trust me when I say that in today’s parenting environment, I would likely have been imprisoned or my parents would have been. But I digress.
The thing about growing up the baby is that nothing is really new. You watch every right of passage occur right before your eyes, with someone you love, who feels not much older than you, but you remain restricted from participating, prevented from crossing whatever threshold there might be to cross.
This creates a sort of defiant, stubborn, tenacious, unsure and sensitive sort of person, and in that description I find my niece Alexis (Lexi, Flexi Flu Flu) and myself. We want to sit at the big kids table, we want to be taken seriously, we want to show we are tough, we want our skills and capabilities to shine beyond the years we’ve had to hone them.
When we do encounter something new, something we haven’t seen one of our siblings or cousins or friends deal with, we worry whether we are doing it right, whether it’s okay to think the way we do, and often we put up fences to stop people from seeing the truth of our questioning our own authentic reaction to the rare “first encounter” experience or more commonly, when we suddenly find our opinions to be different than those around us.
We don’t often let you see us cry, but we do. We spend our entire life watching the family we were born in to move away and build their own families before we have sometimes had the chance to start. So we cautiously give away our affection lest we have to adjust to the very typical but just as earthshattering change of watching someone develop a life that is different than the one you’ve always known together.
If my nephew and nieces were each a “part” of my soul, Nathan would be my logic and humor (his parents might find the statement about logic interesting). Natalie would be my intellect, tenacity and strength. Lydia would be my joy, compassion and fortitude. And Lexi, she would be my heart, my vulnerability, and my thoughtfulness. And at the core of all who Lexi is and I believe will discover herself to be in the years of her life to come, Lexi would represent empathy and the ability to demonstrate that sensibility without any judgment whatsoever.
And I think Lexi will be a great teacher some day of a great many things like those I mention above and perhaps others I don’t yet even see. I love her so much, even when all I can get out of her is a side hug.
Don’t worry Flex — this weekend for your birthday, it’s full frontal all the way! :)