Last week, my daughter said, “Mom, I feel like Jack is your favorite child.” It left me feeling a little bad, but I must say, she wasn’t all wrong. What she didn’t see (because her face was in her phone) was how he jumped up to help me when he saw me carrying in three bags of groceries. I didn’t have to ask, clear my throat in an obnoxious way, or slam down a bag to get his attention. He just got up and did it while she sat in the car more concerned with her Candy Crush score than if her mother was hyperextending a damn elbow.
But lo and behold, the very next day her older brother said, “Mom, Anna gets a lot more clothes and stuff than Jack and I do. You spoil her.” What he doesn’t know is his sister helps me out with cleaning the bathrooms (splattered with his pee) every other day, walks the neighborhood dogs, and rubs my feet all the time so she can have extra spending money because she is a clothes-horse like her mama. And she earns some of it herself.
He would witness her hard work if he wasn’t in his room by himself ignoring the rest of the family all the damn time.
To our kids, I am sure it looks like we have a favorite, and I am going to go rogue here and say something I probably shouldn’t: They aren’t wrong.
It’s just that the person who is the “favorite” changes often. Sometimes hourly.
All three of my kids have been my “favorite” at different times. I’m not vocal about it. I don’t march into a room and say, “Hey, oldest child, you are currently my favorite kid, so you get to sit on the corner of the sofa and eat ice cream all day while I work your brother and sister to the bone.” It doesn’t work quite like that.
And of course, we love them all equally — it’s just that there are times when we feel more closely bonded with a specific child. Or we don’t like one of them as much because they won’t stop coming in and out to tattle on their brother after we send them outdoors to go air out their shorts.
Maybe your baby is going through the cutest stage ever and all you want to do is squeeze their butt cheeks and they are sleeping like a dream. Meanwhile, your toddler is fussing about everything from his toenails hurting to his brownie being too chocolatey. We can’t be made to feel bad about our feelings, right?
We’ve all been there whether we admit it or not. We’ve all had our favorites. We don’t act on it (most of the time), but we are conscious of it in the moment, and it’s okay. It’s normal.
Different stages in our kids bring out different stages — and reactions — in us. Sometimes they test our patience, sometimes they teach us a huge life lesson, and sometimes we have that one child who is just driving us batshit crazy.
And right now, as I sit and write this, my oldest is making me some nachos (my weakness), and I’d like to tell you it’s because he is so thoughtful and caring, but deep down I know it’s because he wants to go biking with his friends tomorrow instead of going to beach with the rest of the family. He knows nachos are my bribe of choice. And because I don’t have to get up and he is waiting on me (and my daughter said she was too tired to rub my feet), he’s kind of my favorite right now. I recognize manipulation when I see it, but I don’t give a damn, because nachos.
So they can accuse me of playing favorites all they want. I know deep down it all evens out. Tomorrow, my son will piss me off because he is mouthy as hell, and my daughter will go clean up her bedroom without asking, and the roles will reverse.
Besides, since I tend to be more of the disciplinarian, I know their father is totally their favorite. Any guilt has been absolved.
And I am okay with that, so long as my precious babies make me Mexican food, help me bring in the groceries, and rub my feet.