The other night I broke one of the cardinal rules of parenting.
I admitted I had a favourite child.
The looks on the faces of the two people I was talking to made it quite clear that I had stepped over a line, as was their comment ‘you should never say that, Shannon’ which also was quite to the point.
Not for one second does admitting you have a favourite mean you don’t love all your children. It doesn’t even mean you don’t love all your children equally, that you wouldn’t fight for them if they needed you, that you wouldn’t jump in front of a bus for them. Because I would.
It’s just – at the moment – I understand one better than the others. No one would bat an eyelid if I said ‘I love all desserts, but my favourite is crème brulee.’ And I don’t just eat crème brulee, because that would be boring and fattening: I still eat icecream and pudding and pie and cake and waffles. Because they’re fattening too. Equally, I would never actively promote one child above the others, or tell them any of this. And I promise that is where the small child/dessert comparison will end.
I have had numerous, eye-rollingly frustrating conversations with The Bombshell about this very topic.
‘Whose your favourite, Mum?’ she would ask hopefully as I tucked her into bed.
I would kiss her forehead and say in that tone all mums use, ‘I don’t have a favourite. You’re all my favourites.’ And then I would stand there and think ‘I should really write a book about that’ and then I’d remember that someone already has.
‘But if you had to choose,’ she would press. ‘Who would it be?’
And I would give her that annoying, condescending smile that all mothers use and walk out of the room.
But honestly, if I had to choose:
My favourite person to hug is probably Baldy, because she is still small enough to pick up, and she holds on like a baby koala, so sometimes I don’t even need to hold her, because she is already holding me so tight. She is excited about little things and that excitement is contagious and energising. (And she likes to make people kiss each other which is pretty funny.)
My favourite person to cook for is the Curly Mop, because she is adventurous and doesn’t mind real flavour and I love cooking for people who love to eat. She gets excited about dinner and likes to talk about food which is one of my favourite subjects. And she ate $40 worth of sashimi last Christmas, which is kind of impressive for a three year old. (Just as long as she doesn’t do it again this year.)
My favourite person to talk with is the Bombshell because she is happy to chat about history and culture and people and all these topics which I sometimes wonder might beyond her seven years, but then she asks such pertinent questions and I am amazed by her empathy and intelligence. (And because she helps me with the washing and watering the garden while we are talking about worldly things.)
I don’t think there is anything controversial in saying this, because it is clear that a lot of what motivates my preferences is the age of my daughters.
I believe that you don’t really choose who you fall in love with. You can try to love someone, but that doesn’t mean things will click. And so with your children, sometimes you might just click with one more than another. It’s a function of age and personality and gender and timing and how much sleep you had the night before. And it changes constantly and regularly.
Kids always get to say they have a favourite parent and no one chastises them. I don’t doubt for a second that my kids love me even though Daddy is their favourite because he makes them pancakes and plays silly games and takes them trampolining. When he makes me pancakes, he’s totally my favourite too.
So while I am probably not wrong to recognise that at this point in time there is a child I prefer more (mostly because she is the one who annoys me the least) and that this preference will probably be different tomorrow, I realise that I probably should not have admitted it (especially not after a few glasses of champagne. And especially not in public.)
Do you have a favourite child?