Humor by John Christmann

My Favorite Child

old photo of a man with his baby and a monkey

I read somewhere that 70% of parents have a favorite child but won’t admit it.

This makes me feel awful. I don’t have a favorite. Never did.

So what is wrong with me as a parent? Am I not able to make a decision? What does this say about me as a father that I am not able to say definitively which of my children I would prefer to hang out with?

I certainly don’t have this problem with other people I know.

Before I became a father, I came to the conclusion that as a parent the odds were pretty good that I would not get it right. I mean, when you think about it, it is a fairly stacked deck. There is only-child syndrome and first-born syndrome and adopted-child syndrome and only-girl/only-boy syndrome and middle-child syndrome and youngest-child syndrome and even more serious syndromes.

These personality shapers were around long before Dr. Syndrome delivered my children. So I figured this pretty much laid out my future in messing with my kids’ heads no matter what I did. Besides, I told myself, there is always therapy when they get older. And so together with my wife I happily went forth to start a family.

Call me selfish.

My wife and I have three healthy kids. They are now teenagers. My oldest, a boy, was assured to have some sort of issues because he was born first. Four years later we had boy-girl twins. Thankfully they were all instantly syndrome-free from being only children, but my first born now carried the added burden of being an oldest son.

Having twins I thought I had miraculously dodged the middle child bullet until my son, the twin who was born first, recently laid claim to that position because he felt deprived of having issues that were his alone. Fortunately my daughter, who is the youngest by seven minutes, just wants some emotional hardship credit for being the only girl.

And now, if that wasn’t enough trouble, they want to know which one of them is my favorite. They pressed me the other night at dinner. This is not the first time they have tried to put me in this position.

My sister often tells me that when we were growing up I was the favorite. I disagree. She seems not to remember as I do all of the instances my parents pointed out my short comings in her presence. But then again I do recall times where in my parents eyes I could do no wrong and she was left to silently observe it as if I were running the table in a hot game of pool.

Such is the exaggerated and selective baggage we took forward in our lives. But at least now when we get together and drink too much we have something to blame for our insecurities.

I suppose I should be flattered that they want me to identify my favorite child. As teenagers, they don’t respect my opinion on anything. But as most parents surmise, this is a question that can be fraught with peril. Even if I had a favorite, I would never admit it.

Which is precisely why they don’t believe me when I admit that I don’t have a favorite.

Over the years I developed many evasive answers to the who is your favorite question, which annoyingly pops up periodically. Usually when I forget to pick one of them up. Here are a few:

My favorite child? What time is it?

Because on any particular day when one is a shining star and another is in the dog house it probably appears as if I have a favorite.

My favorite child? Can I count the neighbors kids? How about the cat?

If they want to compete, then let’s widen the field.

My favorite child? Who last did the dishes without being asked?

I think it is important to let kids know that servitude is a legitimate attribute in their quest for most favored child status. Even if it will never be granted.

My favorite child? I don’t have a favorite. You are all beautiful and unique like snowflakes.

I usually gag when I say this; it makes me sound like a Hallmark card. My kids just roll their eyes and tell me I am avoiding the question. But the problem is, it is true.

My favorite child? I only have a least favorite.

This changes the dynamics of the query significantly. That is, until they want me to divulge who my least favorite is.

My favorite child? The one who stops asking.

It works for a while until they want to know who the favorite is if they all stop asking.

My favorite child? That is an unanswerable question. It’s like asking who is your favorite parent.

Mom. There is seldom hesitation.

My favorite child? If you put your heads together it will come to you.

I love hanging with all three of them.

And if they really must know, the cat is my least favorite.