Every parent has a favorite child. Oh, it’s true. You know it’s true. My favorite changes. Sometimes my favorite is the least needy of my group. Because his absence makes my heart grow fonder. Sometimes my favorite is the hardest working. Because, what he wasn’t born with in the brains department, he more than makes up for with his effort. There are times my favorite stays my favorite for a few months’ span. Sometimes it changes in an hour. But I always have a favorite…
My nuclear family (the one I was born into) is a family of five. Husband, wife, son, daughter, daughter. I am first daughter, middle child. Keeper of the peace. Growing up, I was also my Dad’s favorite. How do I know this? Because he told me. Every day. When he tucked me into bed at night, he would say, “Bethany, you can be whatever you want to be in this world. I know you’ll be a shining star.” Then, in a conspiratorial whisper, he’d add, “You know you’re my favorite. The only one with my blue eyes.” I bought it. Hook, line, and sinker.
When Dad introduced me to people, it was as, “my Bethany, my older daughter and the only one with my blue eyes.” Wink.
And his favorite, clearly, that’s why he’s winking. He can’t say it aloud, my brother and sister might hear him. Secret’s safe with me, Dad.
I was a straight A student (check). I never got caught having a party at my parents’ house like my sister did (check). I didn’t reside in a very dangerous neighborhood during my college years like my brother did, which freaked my parents out daily (check). 3 more marks in the favorite child column for Bethany.
I happily chugged through life as my Dad’s favorite until June of 2002. My sister’s wedding. I was already married and had given birth to Waldorf. My brother had already married as well. Little sister’s wedding fell on one of the two days that I was no longer breastfeeding Waldorf, yet hadn’t yet gotten pregnant with the Kenyan. We danced, we sang, we drank, we laughed. It was an epic party.
My Dad grabs the microphone amidst the 200 guests and stands for a toast. Thanks everyone for coming. What a beautiful bride his baby is. What a wonderful partner she’s chosen in flyboy (her husband). She may have had some bumps in her journey, but she’s straightened herself out.
Everyone is touched. We laugh in the right spots. We “awe” at the heartfelt compliments.
As Dad’s wrapping up his toast, he says, “And you know, on your wedding day, I’ll tell you what I’ve always told you…you, my dear, have always been my favorite.”
Wait a minute. Dad just told everyone at my sister’s wedding that I am his favorite. And he made a mistake and called it MY wedding day. Oh, God. I hope he’s not losing it. How old is he? Wait, is he drinking gin? Maybe it’s the gin. I know it’s 5:00 somewhere, but it’s not far past high noon here.
I look over to see my little sister smiling at my Dad. Not at all surprised by his confession that I am his favorite. And his mixup with whose wedding we were attending.
WTH? She’s drunk already too? Bunch of lushes…
I make eye contact with my brother. Uh-oh. He’s fuming. He looks like he’s going for the microphone. Or for Dad’s throat. He yanks the microphone from Dad’s hands and, clearly agitated, spits out, “I thought I was your favorite!”
That’s funny. That’s really funny. He’s quick.
Wait a minute…wait…just…one…minute….Whoa!!!
I speak up. No need for the microphone, my anger fuels the volume of my voice so all 200 guests can hear it.
“Hey, Dad, I thought I was your favorite! Remember, the only one with your blue eyes?”
Dad’s looking to make a quick exit to extricate himself from the mess in which he’s just stepped. The crowd loves us. People are rolling with laughter. Clapping, pointing, laughing, slapping one another’s backs.
Little sister grabs the microphone and starts chanting, “Favorite child! Suck it, you suckers! Yeah! Favorite child!” I believe she did the moonwalk in her wedding gown while heckling us. Or maybe she just mooned us in her wedding gown. Frankly, I’m too traumatized to remember.
Fast forward to my married family. Husband, wife, penis, penis, penis, penis. B&B broaches the topic with me one day. It’s still a sore subject, I’m not going to lie.
B&B: “Remember how your Dad told all 3 of you idiots that you were his favorite when you were little?”
Me: “You mean that gentleman whose blue eyes I have, who hoodwinked me my entire childhood, then broke my heart at my sister’s wedding? Yes, I vaguely remember.”
B&B: “I think he’s a genius. I’m going to start doing that with our kids.”
Me: “You’re going to lie to them, then rip the rug out from under them in front of all of their friends and family? Awesome plan. I look forward to picking up the pieces of our children’s shattered psyches.”
B&B: “Think about it. You really believe in yourself. You have confidence. Maybe it comes from growing up believing that you were your Dad’s favorite. Maybe your Dad stumbled across something that we can use to help our kids grow up with confidence too.”
Me: “Listen, I was a food marketing major. I don’t have a clue what Freud would make of my Dad’s philosophy. But those moron kids of ours can’t keep a secret. They will tell one another. Then you’ll be exposed for the fraud that you are.”
B&B: “Good point. Too risky.”
Case closed, right?
So, one evening when the moon is at its fullest and the kids are at their most outrageous (no coincidence…this is another thing all parents know…that their kids’ moods are directly affected by the cycles of the moon), my Gemini husband goes a little batshit crazy on the kids. He indulges in some yelling and sends all of them to bed early.
I give them a few minutes in their rooms to let B&B’s temper tantrum, I mean extremely effective mode of discipline when used sparingly, marinate in their juvenile little minds. Then I proceed to their rooms to reinforce (in my more quiet manner) B&B’s valid points.
Me: (Quietly to Waldorf while the Kenyan was brushing his teeth) “You know Daddy and I love you very much. We give you boys a great deal of freedom. We ask, in return, that you respect us by listening when we do ask something of you. So, let’s work on that, OK? Doing something the first time Mommy or Daddy asks?”
Waldorf: “OK, Mommy. I know Daddy yelled, but it didn’t hurt my feelings.”
Me: “Good, honey, he yelled because he was frustrated. He would never try to hurt your feelings.”
Waldorf: “Yes. I know that. I’m his favorite. He tells me that. But don’t tell the Kenyan, because his feelings would get hurt.” He’s beaming with pride.
Me: “Sure thing, big guy.” I put my finger in the cleft of his chin and kiss the top of his head.
2 minutes later, while Waldorf is brushing his teeth, I lay down next to the Kenyan…
Me: “So, buddy, do you understand why you guys got into trouble?”
Kenyan: “Yes, Mommy. Because we weren’t listening when we should have listened.”
Me: “That’s right. It’s a shame you guys have to go to bed early, but it’s important that you learn there are consequences to your actions. Let’s try for better listening ears next time, ok?”
Kenyan: “OK, Mommy. Oh, and Mommy,” (the Kenyan looks left, then looks right, then lowers his voice to a whisper), “If you’re wondering why I’m not crying because of the yelling, it’s because I think Daddy wasn’t yelling at me. I think he was really yelling at all of my brothers.”
Me: “Really?” I start belting out Billy Joel’s Innocent Man, “I AMMMMMMM an Innocent Man, Oh, yes, I am…”
Kenyan: “Mommy, don’t be ridiculous. Daddy told me like a million times that I am his favorite. But I don’t think you should tell Waldorf because his feelings would probably just get hurt.” He also is beaming with pride.
Ahem…I’m beginning to see a pattern here.
Me: “Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it, sweetheart.” I kiss his perfectly smooth little animated face.
2 minutes later, after Waldorf and the Kenyan have been tucked in, I climb into the top bunk with the Interrogator.
Me: “So, what happened downstairs?”
Interrogator: Master of the obvious, “Dad yelled.”
Me: “Yes, why do you think Dad yelled?”
Interrogator: “Because he got mad.”
Me: “Yes, why do you think Dad got mad?”
Interrogator: Really pondering, “Um, I think probably he didn’t get to be the wine weader (translation…line leader) today at work. And maybe his feelings were hurt. So he yelled. Here. In the night time.”
Me: Trying to suppress my smile, “That’s an excellent guess. And you may be right that he wasn’t line leader today. But I have a feeling he yelled because you boys weren’t listening. And that made him frustrated. Because grownups get frustrated just like 5 year old boys do.”
Interrogator: Matter-of-factly, “Mom, Dad doesn’t like to yell at me.”
Me: “No, he doesn’t. He doesn’t like to yell at any of you guys. But sometimes, when you’re making so much noise, he yells in order for you to hear him.”
Interrogator: “Mom, I know Dad doesn’t like to yell at me because….psst…can you keep a secret?” He’s grinning now, and the Interrogator’s grin spreads warmth through my veins the way champagne goes right to my toes. I find his happiness impossible not to share.
Me: (grinning and whispering) “Of course I can keep a secret.”
Three guesses what he’s going to say…
Interrogator: “It’s a good one, so don’t tell. Dad says I’m his favorite boy! But, guess what? You’re my favorite! Not Dad! But don’t tell him, OK?” My beautiful boy #3, just like his two older brothers, beams with pride.
Me: “Never! I’ll never tell!” I shower his adorableness with kisses as we both laugh over our shared secret.
The Verb needs no reinforcement. He’s already asleep, mouth wide open, sweaty curls tumbling across his pillow. And I know that he is in fact B&B’s favorite. At least today.
Because we all have our favorites.
By the time I get downstairs, B&B has regained his composure.
B&B: “I probably shouldn’t have yelled.”
Me: “Eh. Don’t worry about it. They were acting like animals.”
B&B: “They need to respect our authority. I will not compromise on that.”
Me: “No doubt.”
B&B: “You’re awfully quiet for you. What did good cop say to the boys?”
Me: “Good cop was more a detective tonight. Call me Andy Sipowitz. I got 3 confessions from those punks.”
B&B: Amused, “Uh-oh. What did they confess to?”
I turn to see his blue eyes, looking at me, waiting on my answer.
Waldorf and the Verb have B&B’s eyes. Same color. Denim blue. The Kenyan and the Interrogator have my eyes. My shape, my color. Bluish-gray. Just like I have my Dad’s eyes.
In that moment, I remember the little girl I was, tucked safely under my covers every night. And how special it made me feel to believe that I was my Dad’s shining star. Maybe it is part of what helped me grow into the confident woman I am today. Maybe Dad was onto something. Maybe this game of “you’re my favorite” could go on a little longer. Maybe even indefinitely.
Me: Smiling, “Some secrets between Moms and boys are meant to be kept.”
And, for now, this will remain one of them.
P.S. To my Big Brother and my Little Sister, I may not be Dad’s favorite. But I am still the only one with his blue eyes.
Nanny nanny poo poo.