Sunday, December 6, 2020

When your youngest child is really your YOUNGEST child

This happens a lot: Our family will be reminiscing about some vacation we took or an activity we used to enjoy when the kids were little, and six of us will laugh together as we fondly remember our shared experience.

The trouble is, there are seven of us.

Often, that memory happened before Little Jack, our youngest, was born.

I call him "Little Jack" because I've always called him Little Jack. Or Jackie.

He's the baby of the family, though he may also be the tallest. He and Jared are neck and neck. They're both essentially 6-foot-1, though according to Terry's Pencil Mark on the Kitchen Wall Measuring System, Jack wins the race by a hair. Jared denies it.

Whatever the reality, the fact is that "Little Jack" is now nearly 15 years old and a decidedly tall kid.

Our oldest four were all born about two years apart. The gap between Melanie (#4) and Jack (#5), on the other hand, is a full 5 years, 4 months.

It's not as long an interval as exists between my brother Mark and me (nearly 12 1/2 years), but I know what it's like to be the youngest.

I missed out on an entirely different existence my parents and siblings had. In the years before I was born (basically the late 1950s and most of the 60s), they lived together as a family of five. Once I came along, my oldest sister Judi was nearly 17 and a junior in high school.

There is no denying I was what is impolitely called "a mistake" and somewhat more sensitively referred to as "a pleasant surprise." Jack, it should be noted, was entirely planned.

It never hurt my feelings when my family would talk about things that happened before I existed. I was more intrigued by it than anything else. I wanted to learn more about this family that predated me.

But I'm afraid sometimes that Jack feels left out when we watch really old home videos or talk about a Disney trip that happened years before his birth.

Don't get me wrong: We've created plenty of great memories with him, too. He has also enjoyed the advantages of being spoiled as only a youngest sibling can be spoiled.

Jack is a smart, talented kid and an all-around good guy. I'm proud of him. He proves that just because you arrive a little later to the party doesn't mean you can't still be the life of it.

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