Friends, it brings me no great pleasure to admit this, but all the rumors are true. (No, not the Lizzo song, but it’s a banger, amirite?) If you have more than one child, your last one is doomed to be incredibly spoiled but also forgotten — all at the same time. Don’t ask how it’s done. It’s a weird sort of alchemy and more likely to happen the more children you have in between the oldest and youngest kid.
In my case, I have two in between the bookends and it’s astonishing just how much I let the babiest baby get away with. (Is it that I’ve learned to loosen up or that my children have broken me? I suppose it could be both.)
Laissez-faire parenting (and a little benign neglect)
The joke is usually that you record all your first’s firsts, but by the time the youngest kid rolls around, everything’s old hat. You’re so inured to children and their nonsense that they practically raise themselves. At least, that’s how it is in my family. In our house, the baby has practically been raised by my eldest two, and quite frankly, they’re terrible parents.
I swore to myself that I wouldn’t be that kind of parent. I would defy birth order and be as consistent with my youngest kid as I was with my oldest. But like all things parenting related, it was great in theory but not quite so much in execution.
For my first, I made his baby food from scratch. I would spend hours preparing custom foods and blending them in my VitaMix and then freezing them in BPA-free ice cube trays. I bought as much organic foods and materials as possible. Bought him all sorts of educational toys and read to him every night. We had a whole routine and I was so earnest it was annoying. I spoke only in Mandarin to him and have since spent tens of thousands of dollars on turning him both bilingual and biliterate in Chinese.
None of that nonsense for this last baby. Nope. He’s made entirely of Kirkland granola bars, nuggets, pizza, and juice. I’ll be lucky if he understands Mandarin — and he constantly trolls me, purposely mispronouncing words and pretending he can’t understand me.
I mean, possibly it’s because I used to be stricter, enforcing timeouts and occasionally yelling to compel behavior I wanted or required. But now, with my youngest kid, I find that it’s really not worth it to me. I don’t want to argue over something that I don’t actually care about in the long run.
You don’t want to bathe for a month? You only want to eat granola bars? You hate to brush your teeth or floss? Fine. Fine. Fine. It’s not like he was that stinky or dirty, he eats vitamins, and we have good dental insurance.
Getting away with murder
Whatever the reason, my older kids constantly complain that I let the youngest kid get away with everything — shit that they would have never been allowed even as few as two years ago.
The older kids protested when I was filling out the parent portion for my youngest’s first kung fu belt test. I gave him perfect marks even though he really isn’t very obedient, helpful, or attentive. However, when I filled out these forms for my oldest three, I answered honestly (and perhaps, my standards were a bit high) and as a result, none of them ever had a chance to medal or score as high as the other kids whose parents lied.
Oh, the cries of “unfair” and sobbing that ensued after my youngest kid got the first medal in the entire family (after seven years of kung fu). The only way I got the big kids to stop crying about it was to agree to also giving them perfect marks on their next belt test (which they promptly medaled in).
Is it favoritism, or is it resignation?
Let’s talk spoiling. Of course, the accusations of favoritism abound.
I love him more because I let him eat candy for breakfast. (Is it loving him more if all his teeth rot?) I’m easier on the baby. (No, kids. It’s mama being easier on herself.) I let him have more screen time. (Again, is letting his brain rot actually a good thing?)
To be fair, he is super spoiled — but it’s not just by me. His older brothers and sister go out of their way to coddle him and keep him happy because otherwise, his tantrums would bring my attention upon them — and generally that means taking something they want away.
But honestly, it’s not because I cosset the baby. It’s because I’ve given up. I’m just so fucking tired. Life’s not that serious. He’ll turn out fine.
Don’t feel too sorry for the older siblings, though. I’m onto their ways.
They totally use the youngest kid as their union representative because they know it’s much more difficult for me to resist his cuteness. After all, I’ve had fewer years to build up immunity and his squeaky little voice is really adorable.