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Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Favorite Child



“I sometimes wonder how the rest of you feel,” my sister Emily mused as we were pulling together memories for my father’s 75th birthday album. “Not being Daddy’s favorite.”

I giggled politely.

She looked at me blankly.

“You’re kidding, right?” I finally said.

“About what? Being the favorite? Everyone knows I was his favorite,” Emily said earnestly.

And that’s when I laughed out loud. Because, there was absolutely no question in my mind that I was, and always would be, my father’s favorite child.

Friends often said that I was “my father’s daughter.” We were so much alike that he wrote this poem for my sixteenth birthday (and yes, Emily, I saved it).

To my dear Bet,
you are the best yet.
I guess I love you so,
Because you are always on the go.
And oh gee!
You are so much like me.
You may quickly get mad,
Just like Dad.
But just as quick you get glad,
Just like Dad.
Happy Birthday from me,
And much love because you are just like me.

If that didn’t prove anything, I don’t know what did.

But, apparently, he was doing something on the side to make my three sisters feel equally as favored.

My father has been gone for over ten years now and I still shake my head over Emily believing she was the favorite.  But if that’s what she needs to get through life, I’ll give it to her, because I know the truth.

After all, I am now a mother with a favorite child of her own.

Molly is my hands-down my favorite daughter. She was my first-born who came howling into the world and turned it upside down. From the get-go she was graced with strong convictions and an untamable spirit. Molly is my favorite because she talks to me. She tells me her hopes and her fears and asks me if she’ll ever find true love. And believes I know the answer. I love Molly because she has big dreams. She is fearless, and maybe a little bit stupid. She walks the streets of Chapel Hill alone at 3 am and doesn’t need an entourage to accompany her to a party or a poetry reading. She doesn’t like main stream music and she loves that her hair is curly. She gets rejected more than any person I know and has learned how to brush herself off and move on to something new. Molly is my favorite because she uses my toothbrush and steals my make-up and puts her fingers over her ears when I chew too loudly.  And Molly is my favorite because she has come to terms with who I am and who she is and knows that we will never, ever be the same.

Max is my very favorite first son. He showed me that you can be happy eating Cheerios in a high chair for hours on end and that you don’t need to scream to get attention. Max is my favorite because he is most like me. His friends are the most important thing to him in the whole wide world and I have to remember not to be hurt when he chooses them over me. Max is my favorite because he stole my credit card number and routinely orders crew socks and inspirational books from Amazon without asking. I love Max because he invested in a pyramid scheme with his own money and didn’t ask me for help when it didn't pan out. Max is brave and happy and makes things happen for himself. When he went to college, he left a four-page, hand-written note on my pillow, thanking me for all I had done that I thought had gone unnoticed. How can a kid like that not be your favorite? Even if he has chosen to go to school in California and is trying his hardest to never come home?

Leo is the one I fought for. I knew my family wasn’t complete with just two children, even though my ever-loving spouse knew that my mothering capacity had tapped out at one. But Leo was the one I could carry around in a baby basket, knowing he’d sit silently under the table when I was lunching with the girls while on maternity leave.  Leo is my favorite because he doesn’t demand anything. While the other two have dozens of high-priced items on their Christmas lists, Leo shrugs and says he doesn’t need anything. Leo is not a talker, which is something I can’t understand, but have learned to respect. Leo is my favorite because he's a fighter. He lived his life in the shadow of his siblings and is ready to make a mark of his own. I love Leo because he makes movies and writes rap songs in our attic. He goes out without telling me, leaves the toilet seat up and dirty frying pans on the stove. Every now and then Leo will open up. He’ll detail his plans for the future and tells me he’s going to do something big in life. And because he is my favorite, I believe him.

Indeed, it is true. Anyone who grew up with siblings knows it. And anyone who grew up to become a parent knows it. There are absolutely, unequivocally favorites in a family.

Yet, we all know that today’s blessing is tomorrow’s burden and that the favorite barometer flips faster than their tastes in food.

The trick is simply to keep them guessing.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Betsy, you've written another gem. I honestly cried reading about Max's 4-page letter. All said so beautifully. Your kids are so lucky.

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