Thursday, August 28, 2014

Which Kid Is Your Favorite? #parenting

My jaw dropped and I just stared, speechless, at the Trader Joe's cashier. Usually they chat you up with meaningless small talk about your weekend plans, your favorite IPAs or your mac n cheese hoarding. But this sweetly smiling cashier, also a mom of two, just asked the unaskable and blew my mind. Yes... she DID just say "Which kid is your favorite?"

I stammered out "Oh, I really couldn't answer that." While my brain began to unwittingly flash on all the things I adore and all the thing that drive me nuts about both of my kids. "I've always told them I'd never pick one over the other when they ask me." 

"Sure you can. They aren't here." she quipped without missing a beat. "You said you have a boy and a girl, right? Me too. I'll bet your boy's your favorite. Mine is."

My brain went reeling off on a silent tangent about most of the world where boys are valued over girls and China where the one child rule has resulted in a huge, generation wide gender gap. I know that's not what she meant. Who am I to go all PC & patriarchy on this stranger? Maybe her daughter's a pain in the butt. All she said was she likes her son more on a personal/personality level, but somehow it irked me. I've spent 12 years instilling confidence, grrrrrrl power and self esteem into my daughter.

Yet, I've read somewhere that boys tend to carry more of their mom's genetic disposition and vice versa and in our family it's totally true. My son is my mini me... word nerd, excellent writer and honors student getting straight A's 2 years ahead of his grade level at Lane Tech, one of the best schools in the country. He's smart, funny, creative and super thoughtful. I get him.

Then there's my daughter. She never reads for fun, can't write a complete sentence without crazy misspellings, and she takes after her punk rock, gymnast, extreme sports lovin' dad. This summer she bungeed off an 80 foot platform and did a 110 foot "sky coaster" free fall. She refuses to wear dresses and hates the color pink and girlie girl stuff. She and I butt heads constantly, but I adore her spunk and spirit just the same. She's also an insanely talented visual artist for her age, which does come from my side of the family. She's definitely a more intense child and tougher to parent, but that doesn't mean I love her any less, even when she's pushing all my buttons.

When my daughter, Sage, was small she went through a few years where she'd constantly make up these grizzly, macabre scenarios and ask who I would rescue, her, her brother or their dad, if I could only pick one. She'd weave these horrific tales of deadly fires, floods, car wrecks, plane crashes, kidnappers and more. Like most moms, I'd go all mama bear and take on a team of terrorists or jump in front of a bus to save either or both of my kids any day. But that answer, and reassurances of her safety never seemed to help and the deadly scenarios kept coming up.

I used to pull the "I won't pick one of you over the other" card until one day I realized maybe she had some deep seated fears I'd bail on her in a life threatening crisis. I changed to saying I'd always rescue her first, not because I loved her more or she was my favorite, but because she was the smallest and most vulnerable and needed me the most. It worked and finally the creepy scenarios stopped.

Way back in the day, after college, I had 2 Huskies with a former partner and although I know dogs are no real comparison to kids, they were family and I loved them both. When we split up and I moved to Chicago and he moved to California, we could each only find apartments that would allow one dog. He let me have first pick, but it was one of the toughest choices of my young life. I ultimately took Ubu, the younger red and white Husky, not because he was my "favorite", but because I felt like he needed me more. Denali, our big black and white boy was more independent and dominant and as much as I adored him and longed to bring him with me, I got the impression he'd be fine no matter what. 

But which kid is my favorite? What kind of mother asks something like that?! I don't honestly think I have a clear cut favorite here. Yet am I suppressing the truth? I somehow feel if I admitted to liking one kid more, even to a stranger in a check out line, far away from my kids' ears, it would show on me later and they'd somehow sense it. Could I even chose if I had to... in a kid splitting divorce or life threatening situation?

Of course the kids have asked me who's my favorite a zillion times in their short lives and I've always staunchly refused to play that game. I've always told them I love them equally and will never ever ever claim to love one over the other. They've finally quit asking.

I've met several adults who said their moms told them they were her favorite, but not to tell the other siblings. Then later in life, they found she'd said that to every one of her kids. I always felt that was a bit dishonest, though sweet in a way. But the kids would inevitably brag about it at some point and realize the deception.

Hopefully I'll never have to make that choice in a split up or life or death situation. And as for declaring a preferred personality between the two or an every day favorite? Not gonna happen. So I packed up my groceries and told the Trader Joe's cashier, "When my kids were small they used to ask who my favorite was all the time and I told them that they could ask forever and I'd ALWAYS answer both of you. That's my final answer."


  1. Whoa. Just whoa. What in this green earth made that crazy cashier ask that of a total stranger??? I think you handled it beautifully and with far less profanity than if I had been there with you. I, too, love both your kiddos equally. To me, they're a team... a complete package and two sides of one of the coolest coins out there. I love you guys!!!