Friday, June 3, 2011

Second Best

Growing up, I was a Daddy's girl. I still am. My Dad could do no wrong in my eyes. I was the baby of the family. I was his favorite.
Mission Beach, California - 1979
When my sister started high school, my brother was in 7th grade and I was in 5th. I watched both of them make bad choices and turn to drugs. I vowed I wouldn't go that route. I always had good grades and I've never even taken a puff of a cigarette. I was the good one. Did that make me my parents' favorite? Or was I already their favorite? I was less combative, more obedient. Sure I could be stubborn as a mule sometimes, but generally, I was a pretty easy kid.

My Mom would never say one child was her favorite. My Dad doesn't have to. Of course they love all three of us and bend over backwards for us, but there is a hierarchy. I sit at the top of the totem pole. Was it the choices I made or didn't make? My personality? I know if you ask my brother and sister who is Mom and Dad's favorite they would both agree that I'm the golden child. Is this how it is in every family? Does one child always feel second best to a sibling who excels in sports or is the brainiac of the family?

Am I already placing my children on a totem pole?

The answer is yes and they know it.

We were all crowded around the computer the other day looking at photos. Emily to my left. Ben on my right. I came by this photo of Emily.

I said, "Emily you have a amazing collar bone".
She said, "What's a collar bone?"
So I explained what it was and that hers looks nice.
Ben feeling left out of the compliments said, "What about me?"
I said, "Oh Ben, everything about you is amazing."
To which Emily replied, "I know, I know, he's amazing and I'm not."

Gulp. Ouch.

She feels that Ben is above her already. Do I try to undo the damage that I've done or deposit more money in her therapy account? Or is this just how it is with families?

The kids place David and I on a totem pole. Emily prefers her Dad over me. Ben prefers me. Noah likes his Dad better. The other night Ben told David that he loves him this much and held up 5 fingers. David asked how much he loves Mommy. He held up both hands and blinked all his fingers about 20 times. They rank us and that's okay.

They do it with their grandparents too. Noah prefers my Dad and David's Dad. He clicks better with male figures. Emily gravitates to my Mom, David's Mom and my Stepmom. Ben likes all the grandparents, but will go in his room by himself after about 30 minutes.

Do any of us get offended? No.

So, I talked to Emily and opened with the fact that she's a Daddy's girl. She shook her head in agreement. I asked her if that means that she loves me less? She said no. Whew.. I told her that it's the same way with Ben. I love them both the same and for different reasons. Then, I went on to list all the things that she's better then Ben at. She liked that.

The fact is that Ben is a very easy kid. He does things when I tell him to the first time. He rarely talks back. He's simple, obedient and easy. Would I like all my kids to be like that? Some days yes. But most days, I appreciate Emily's feisty attitude and her zest for life. I don't mind bribing Noah with M&M's to get him to cuddle with me. They are all different and I embrace their differences and love them the same.

Will my kids see it that way? Only time will tell. I may yell at Emily more and get frustrated with Noah all the time, but the important thing is that they know I love them. At the end of the day, I think they feel that love. And I hope that's all that really matters.


Linda said...

I love this post. It's one of the most thought-provoking ones you've written, I think and by writing that I don't mean that your others aren't just as great either, ;) See how that works? lol

But truly, it makes me think about a lot of things. About growing up and how on one hand, I usually felt pretty great about myself when it came to how I knew my parents felt about me, at the same time - they didn't say much how they felt and I never felt like I was good enough. With three sisters, I always felt like the others had better talents, and as the largest one out of all of us, I was led to believe that I was fat when I wasn't. I should say that I felt that way when I weighed 100 pounds all through my teens and 20s when my sisters were skinnier. Crazy.

In our case, we have the added complications of a blended family where jealousy rears its ugly head when one sister gets more than the other, but when the fact is there are more parents than just Jim and I involved and only daughter lives with us.

So... see you made me think about a lot of different things. Thanks for a great post and hope you're having a wonderful weekend.
Love, Linda

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and not at all unexpected news! Ha!
The interesting part is that for the most part all three of your babies had the same beginning and life experiences. Noah has had fewer and some what different circumstances surrounding his arrival, but has he had different environment in which to grow, not really. But yet like you said all 3 are so different and unique unto themselves. Why we gravitate more easily to one person over another is so individual and that is what provides the variety and harmony in our lives. Like you mentioned the most important thing is that we each know we are loved and respected for our individuality.
Your 3 are all loved and give love in return. Who gets the most is sometimes a variable that may change before the story ends. ☼