Who’s Your Favorite?

A teacher and a parent were recently discussing favoritism in the hallway of my son’s nursery school. 

While it’s uncomfortable to admit, one of them was adamant that not only did she have a favorite child, but that everyone does. 

“That favorite might change over time, but everyone has one,” she contended. 

I have always worked so hard to make sure my own children felt equally loved. As an only child, I knew I had to be sensitive to this. Their conversation got me thinking — is it really possible to have a favorite child? Do I really love them equally deep down? And can that favorite spot be awarded to different children in different stages of their lives?

At a glance, my first child, a daughter, would seem to hold the title of my favorite. Whether it’s looks, smarts or compassion for others, she has it all (says her unbiased mother). When she was a baby, I used to get stopped on the street by complete strangers, who said they had never seen such a cute child. Baby blue eyes, one dimple and corkscrew curls reminiscent of Shirley Temple, she caught everyone’s eye.

With those that know her well, she is funny, charismatic, smart and sweet. It is her innate caring for others of which I am most proud. She knows to do the right thing, and just as important, when others are doing wrong, not to follow. She’s an avid reader and a great student. Athletic coaches remark on her abilities and talents. She seems to have it all.

So when preparing for child number two, I looked down at my stomach and thought, “Does this kid have a hard act to follow.”

And then he came along. 

Slow to start talking, we never knew if he understood what was going on. It took years for us to see that he did, and then some. Being a typical boy, he was boisterous, full of energy, loud and often couldn’t sit still. There was no corner, sharp edge or ledge that he didn’t come close to hitting by more than an eighth of an inch. You couldn’t leave him for a second. And while I was told he acted just like any other boy, in our family, he was nicknamed “Dennis the Menace.”

I kept telling myself “it’s a stage, it’s a stage,” but the stage didn’t seem to end.

But then everything changed. My son started to talk and never stopped. From it, came humor, clever observations and thought-provoking questions. He will strike up a conversation with anyone telling of his passion for Star Wars, sea life and tacos. This usually ends with the other party laughing and charmed. 

What blows me away are his hugs and saying “I love you” without request. We never saw this from our daughter — she doesn’t hug, cuddle or kiss without being asked.  We taught her how to hug by saying “wrap and squeeze!”  

Our son instinctively knew that not only is it great to give and get hugs, but it’s a great feeling to say “I love you” without being told to do so.

With a more-than-five-year age difference, you’d expect that she’d show him the way to do things, but it goes both ways. He has taught her how to be affectionate, and that, to me, is a wonderful gift.

A wise mother once told me of her daughter and son, “One is my heart and one is my soul.”

Interestingly, it’s the same woman who said “Everyone has a favorite.” 

My kids bring out each other’s strengths, along with weaknesses. For all of that, I am grateful. Neither will ever be a favorite. For me, whether they like it or not, they are in a tie for life.