As I sit at my computer and try to concentrate on writing my latest chapter, my four year old will inevitably come over and ask me for juice a dozen times times, food a hundred times, and to change the channel on the TV about a 1,000 times. When I finally get him all set, my three year old will walk by my desk and push a broken toy at me to fix, shoes to put on his feet (whether he is wearing pants or not), or scream at me to get off my butt and take him outside. At this point my twelve year old will cruise by, tell me good morning before heading downstairs to play video games far away from where I’m trying to work before the party is officially over and he goes back to school.
Do parents have favorites?
This one sure does.
Many parents will deny this fact all day long: “Oh no! I love all my kids equally,” “I could never choose – they’re all so terrific!” Blah. Blah. Blah. Whatever. For appearances sake let’s just say 3% of parents actually do love their kids equally at any given moment. That still leaves 97% of the population playing Who’s Mom’s (or Dad’s) Favorite? I am definitely a card-carrying member of this group and won’t even waste my breath trying to deny it.
My own mother had eight kids, and she most certainly had favorites. Of course she is the founding member of Parents Against Idiotic Notions (or P.A.I.N. for short), but once upon a time she’d been a naïve an idealistic new mother too. That was until the day she realized her children were slowly but surely trying to put her in an early grave.
My mother likes to tell all of us she never played favorites. Sure, lady. Tell yourself you didn’t like one kid over another if that’s what makes you feel better now that you’re 74 and want to live out your life in your comfortable home and not in some second-rate retirement village. We all knew the truth then and we know it now. You had favorites (still do!), and the rest of us wished him or her dead at one point or another (a completely natural reaction among siblings in our household, rest assured).
Favoritism is elastic. It is not a permanent state of being. It changes from kid to kid, moment to moment. A three year old who’s just used a Sharpie to mark up your brand new, stupidly expensive purse cannot be your favorite kid — not in the same way as the one who helped you bring in the groceries from the car which left your purse alone and open to assault in the first place.
There is no shame in my game…shame being something stripped away by toddlers who have no qualms about standing in my bathroom watching me shower or will spill an entire cup of grape juice on my poor laptop until the guy at Best Buy looks at me with a pathetic shake of his head and tells me I should’ve bought the extra warranty. Um…are you deficient Mr. Best Buy Geek Guy? Have you seen how many kids I have? I can’t afford that!
When I hug my oldest son goodnight I tell him: “I love you. You know you’re my favorite, right?” He nods like the all-knowing teenager he is quickly becoming. Then I say: “But don’t tell your brothers because it’ll make them feel bad.” He laughs and tells me he won’t say a word. Good man.
Then it’s off to the next room (which happens to be MY bedroom for some horribly karmic reason), where I kiss my four year old goodnight as he lounges in my spot with my favorite pillows stacked behind his head. I lean over him and say: “I love you Mr. Mayor (because he can often be found shaking hands and kissing babies around town). You’re my favorite boy in the whole, wide world, but don’t tell your brothers because it’ll make them sad.” He grins at me and gives me a chubby bear hug and tells me he loves me too.
Finally I move onto my youngest and place him in his brand new toddler bed, giving him a goodnight kiss and telling him he’s my favorite but it’s our little secret and he can’t say anything to the others because they’ll be heartbroken. He grins happily at me, cookie crumbs dribbling out of the side of his mouth since he’s managed to snake one out of the jar without me seeing.
So yeah, I tell my kids they’re each my favorite. So sue me. My twelve year old is my favorite when he offers to play with his little brothers downstairs so I can write in peace for twenty minutes. My four year old is my favorite when he actually uses the potty and gets everything inside the bowl on the first try. My youngest is my favorite when he takes his medicine without throwing it back up and all over my clean shirt.
Yes, I have favorites. And most days they vary from kid to kid. Some days one kid can’t seem to keep his butt out of time out, while another makes me wonder how far I could get with just the change in my purse if I decided to make a break for it.
Then on some days a miracle really does happen and they’re all perfect. For one glorious moment in time they all share the title of ‘Most Favorite,’ and I realize I am part of that 3% of parents who love their kids equally! It is on those days I feel like maybe I’m not doing such a bad job after all, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll stick it out a little while longer – or at least until my husband comes home from work and I can slip out the back door like a ninja in flip-flops and khaki shorts.
Knowing how most people love to hang out in Denial Alley, I am sure someone will send me a scathing message about the detriments of such practices on the young developing psyche of my unfortunate offspring or how playing favorites can have a long-term negative impact well into their adult lives, keeping the vicious cycle going on for eternity.
To those people I say: Go scratch. I have three never-ending stomachs to fill, a laundry pile that hits the ceiling weekly, and three college funds I’m trying to scrimp together so my boys can have a better job than I have when they finally grow up. And by the way, have you even seen the news lately? Things could be a lot worse for my boys than having to be the non-favorite once and awhile.
Besides, I’m not always their favorite parent either but you don’t hear me complaining. Heck, I don’t really care so long as they whisper in my ear that I’m totally their #1 before making me promise not to tell dad. To this of course I willingly agree because we can’t go around hurting other people’s feelings.
What kind of parent would I be then?