It has been some time since a painful discussion started in my family: Who’s Mom’s favorite? Nearly thirty years later, I still don’t have an answer, let alone a remedy for the mental ailment that my offspring suffers from.
There are many to blame for this, but that nosey Austrian psychoanalyst–Sigmund Freud–tops the list. I don’t remember exactly what the occasion was, but someone asked if I love my son more than my daughters, and my Freudian response was, “A mother’s affection for a boy is a different kind!”
“What do you mean?” my older, inquisitive, lawyer-to-be-way-down-the-line daughter inquired.
I tried to explain it in the best way I thought a ten-year-old could understand. “I love all of you equally, but a son is a little man to his mom! It’s like having a crush on someone.”
History proved how fatal those words could be! I should have known they’d come back to torment–if not crucify me. Had he been a she, I doubt Mr. Freud himself would be able to grasp the innocence in that remark. In addition, having raised a rather quiet boy versus two talkative girls, I lose the battle every time the subject comes up!
Funny, how the girls never hesitate to defend their Dad. As far as they’re concerned, Daddy can do no wrong, and if he ever DOES wrong, it’s not offensive, it’s just funny. And how is it that my son never questions the soft spot in Daddy’s heart for his little girls? When it comes to Mom, those girls form such a strong team that even God can’t help their poor mother!
But seriously, I like certain traits in each one of my wonderful children. Lilly is my wise and caring one, Susie is the independent child who turns into a tower of strength in times of crisis, and Cyrus is the Mr. Do-no-harm. But what I enjoy most is their unique sense of humor which makes it even more fun to be around them. They each look a little like me–though I have a hard time seeing that, act a bit like me–though they don’t know it, and they’re easy to love. The truth is, they’re so much like their father that sometimes I’m in love with the four, and other times I’m ready to divorce all four!
At least once a year the annual question comes up, just to lead to the usual conclusion and a good laugh. But late at night, I stay awake wondering if anyone, anyone at all, is able to pick a favorite child?
We all have favorite books, movies, clothes, and foods. But can we have a favorite vital organ? I know I don’t. And among my organs, I can’t pick and choose which one to feed, which section of my lungs to send fresh air to, or what part of my heart to make happy. I use my brain for thinking, heart for feeling –never mind what medicine has to say about that! I need my feet for mobility, my hands for creating and my eyes for appreciating light. But those are facts that by themselves aren’t enough to make me choose one over the other. Secretly, I am beginning to think maybe I should have a favorite organ because God only knows what I need most these days is my tongue to finally shut up those kids and put an end to this feud.
On Christmas eve, like a tradition, the question was rehearsed. My eldest and the youngest are each quite convinced that they are favored while my second daughter remains faithful to the universal tradition of middle children, feeling unloved, un-favored, and insignificant. Little do they know how wrong they are. All three of them!
The actual question should be, can anyone have a favorite child? And my new response is, oh, YESSS! I never thought this was possible, at least not until about five years ago when I gained a son-in-law. Here is a child who never cried, never made a mess expecting me to clean up, never kept me up at night, never made me visit the principal’s office–or apologize to another parent–and he never/ever threw up on my beautiful silk shirt. Even now, he is the only one of them who won’t bother me with his petty insecurities! What does he care which one of the four I favor? He doesn’t compare himself to others, doesn’t measure the love I have to offer–let alone conclude that he is getting less than his fair share.
So in my next life, I’m not going to have sons or daughters. I’ll just have myself many sons-in-law and maybe a daughter-in-law? Though I better hold my vote on that one. They won’t give me grief on holidays because they either won’t care to know, or will be wise enough to finally realize that a mother loves equally, fairly, and without prejudice. Amen!