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Last in Line: Reverencing the youngest child

By Terresa Wellborn

“Just be ten!” I tell my youngest for the umpteenth time this week. He’s ten going on sixteen. What’s a mom to do?

Our other kids are teens approaching driving, dating, college, while our youngest regularly snuggles. The gap between them feels wide and at times, unbearable. And I am caught between, in the grinding gears of motherhood and momentum.

What I’m talking about is universal. Other families have wider gaps, I know. My quest is how to mind the gap, bridge it. How to navigate my own struggles with this family dynamic: the older kids disregarding the young, and the young aging up before their time.


The older we get, the deeper we dig into our childhoods,
Hoping to find the radiant cell
That washed us, and caused our lives
to glow in the dark like clock hands
Endlessly turning toward the future,
Tomorrow, day after tomorrow, the day after that,
all golden, all in good time

Charles Wright, “Archaeology”

Rethinking my own childhood helps me understand my children. It was golden. I was second oldest. Four of us siblings were close in age, then the last, Truman, was seven years my junior. He grew up faster as the caboose. Instead of Raffi and PBS, he listened to Duran Duran and watched Pretty in Pink. Did he have a choice?


Tell the truth of experience
they say they also
say you must let
go learn to let go
let your children

Fay Zwicky

Learning and letting go is part of this, for both mother and child. I realize as my youngest ages up, the door of childhood closes behind him. Sure, another door opens when grandchildren come, but that time feels so far away.

The sky runs toward me, laughing like a child.”

-Yves Bonnefoy

When raising a family, how does one keep this space, let children be? This time like the sky wide open, free as a child? Can we delineate childhood, keep it sacred, capture it in hand prints and selfies? Or is it measureable at all? The take home here may be two-fold: realizing the inherant sacred nature of childhoodit deserves our attention and respect. And that birth order defines each of our children but in a multitude of ways they also defy it.

The other day, before hopping from car to elementary playground, Z., my youngest, thrust his hand in my face, a morning school ritual. The kissing hand. A book I scoffed at with my oldest, now years later, resonates differently. I remember again, and my heart lurches a little. I hold the sanctity of this, my youngest, for a brief moment. I marvel at where I’ve been with my children. I marvel at where they’ll go.

I hold a reverance for my youngest child as I hold his palm and kiss it, rapid fire peck, before he pulls back, smiles, and sprints off and away.


How does birth order effect you and your family? What advice do you have for reverencing the youngest child?

About Terresa Wellborn

Terresa Wellborn has been published in BYU Studies, Dialogue, and several anthologies including Fire in the Pasture, Monsters and Mormons, and Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry. She has a BA degree in English Literature and a MLIS degree in Library and Information Science. Her joys include her four children, books, and chocolate babka. She reads faster than she hikes, runs faster than she writes, and has often been mistaken for Miss Frizzle. When not on a mountaintop, she prefers to dwell in possibility.

2 thoughts on “Last in Line: Reverencing the youngest child”

  1. It seems that entering a new year stirs up all sorts of thoughts about relationships – and how they grow and evolve, often in herky-jerky ways. When one of my children became a teenager, I suddenly became the stupidest person on earth around them. Their perception of me became my perception of myself and 20 years later I can tell I'm still trying to heal those ego wounds. I was the youngest child in my FOO (Family of Origin) and have always assumed that everyone else was smarter and more capable than I was. It is always a little startling, even as I accumulate years, that sometimes I am NOT the least capable person in the room. Thanks for providing this rich prompt to examine life and relationships!


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