Attention offspring: You're my favorite

BlogHer Original Post

There are certain things that my children know: My husband makes the best pancakes, their dad will always spring for donuts, and I'm the one who reminds them to do their homework and practice piano. Oh, and also, they know that they're my favorite.

I don't remember exactly how it started -- it was probably at dinner one night, over something minor one of them did. "You're my favorite," my husband said to the child in question, with a big grin and perhaps some eyebrow-waggling at the other child. The conversation devolved into a discussion of what the non-favorite child could do to "catch up." It was a dinner with lots of laughter and clear understanding that we were just joking around. And from then on, "You're my favorite" became the family catchphrase.

We both say it to the kids. The kids say it to us. Ever so rarely, they even say it to each other. It's come to mean "thank you" or "nice work" or even "I feel like saying this to you rather than pointing out to your sibling that he or she is being a brat at the moment." And my husband and I even say it to each other. (Let me tell you, nothing gets a kid behaving nicely and setting the table faster than hearing mom declare someone else her favorite!)

It works in our family because 1) there's plenty of good humor and snark to go with it and 2) we don't actually have favorites. That second part is important, because it wouldn't be funny, otherwise.

But Laura Bennett says I'm fooling myself, because according to her, she has a favorite and so does every other mom on the planet.

If you swear you have no favorite, and think you are fooling your kids, you're fooling yourself. Just because kids are short, they aren't stupid. They can figure it out. Just like personalities are formed by birth order, I think personalities are formed by preference order. It's not a bad thing, its just the way life works.

Bennett details how she keeps a mental "list" and her children are well aware of it, and even vie to move up on it. It's natural! It's healthy! Everyone does it!

Sorry, I think that's utter crap.

I mean, hey, good for Bennett for being honest. Maybe she truly does have a favorite, maybe her children are perfectly well-adjusted in spite of that, and she's most certainly not alone in her approach. But she doesn't get to tell me that I'm the same way. Because it just so happens that I'm not.

I'm not going to bring y'all to my therapist's couch with me, or anything, but let me just tell you that my parents played favorites. And I love my parents dearly. But they played favorites and here is what I know about that: It feels terrible. On either side, actually. At least, that was my experience, and so I made a conscious decision when I became a parent not to do that. Because Bennett is right that kids aren't stupid and always know when someone is the favorite.

Do I sometimes like one child more than the other right at that moment? Sure.

Do I occasionally feel more connected to one kid than I do to the other one? Absolutely.

Do I treat them absolutely the same all the time? No, because I don't know how to do that with two different people.

But. But. There is ebb and flow, and I don't mean the sort of thing Bennett talks about where she refers to life stages and basically says she'll always prefer babies to teenagers. I mean that what is true right now and what's true five minutes from now may differ. I don't have an inherent preference for boys over girls or the older child over the younger child. I don't. Maybe you do, and I wish you the best of luck with that. But I don't, and I resent being told that I'm deluded for feeling that way.

I don't treat them exactly the same, because they have different needs. And I do have certain preferences based upon their personalities -- I would rather play outside with the child who doesn't spend the entire time whining to go in, and I would rather eat a meal with the child who actually eats the food instead of dissecting it, for example. But they are both my favorite. She's my very favorite daughter and he's my very favorite son. And if they were both boys or both girls they'd be my favorite Oldest and Youngest. And if I had twelve kids, there would be twelve reasons that each of them would be my very favorite.

And just for the record? I don't have a favorite ice cream flavor, either. Though perhaps Laura Bennett thinks I'm kidding myself about that one, too.

Mommy's Gotta Life says we all play favorites, and it's perfectly fine -- though her definition of how that changes sounds more like my minute-to-minute perspective than Bennett's list.

And the New York Times' Lisa Belkin asks her readers if they have a favorite child, noting that "often what feels like unequal love is more likely unequal like."

So what say you? Do you have a favorite child? Am I splitting hairs over Bennett's position or is her assertion that "we all do it" just her attempt to justify?

But before you answer, I just want to tell you something: You're my favorite. No, really.

BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir also blogs about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and about the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.


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