7/9/13

Playing Favorites . . .

No one has ever stood atop this award podium. It is
PowerPoint clip art. And not even GOOD clip art.
I was talking to my parents the other day and I said something that I think struck them as odd. I expressed GREAT appreciation for only having ONE child and stating that I think we should only ever have, own, operate, empower, covet, build, or cherish one of anything. This includes but is not limited to cars, homes, spouses, canned fruit dessert, adult film star on Twitter, and - yes - CHILDREN.

Now I know, I know . . . ALL children are gifts and blessings and statistically very few of them will go on to be adult film stars on Twitter (I jokingly say this knowing there already IS an adult film star on Twitter with my daughter's name (if you don't Google your current or potential children's names every now and again - you're horrible at branding)) and I know that no parent is ever going to admit this (no matter how much better we would be as a society if we would/could) but for every parent out there with more than one kid is a parent that has a FAVORITE child.

Yes. I said it. I know, I know . . . it is "simply not true" - you have 20 children, reality TV show parent, and you love them all exactly the same. Yeah? Bologna. Yes. I'm calling you a liar. How? What gives me this moral authority? Simple - human nature is at my back.

We naturally choose favorites. It is sorta' Darwinism, sorta' the survivalist instincts, and sorta' the priority and prerogative of a person living in 21st century America . . . we have favorites. I own dozens of "types" of shoes but my favorite is the penny loafer. It is casual. It is dressy. It is a slip-on. It is made in a diversity of materials. It goes with everything. I own +13,000 songs in iTunes and, thanks to Google Play Music, have access to MILLIONS of songs yet I'll tell you that my favorites (depending on my mood) are in the single digits and if I was even challenged to pick A favorite . . . Ben Folds. No question or debate. I own dozens of sports coats. I only love my navy blue blazers. I could go on.

And I'll bet you could, too. So why would it surprise my parents (who have three sons all in their 30s, all successful in our own ways, all pride inducing, etc.) that I told them they were liars and cheats if they would not cop to each having a favorite son. Yet they did. And they thought they had a checkmate hanging back with their rook . . . they challenged me to tell them who their favorites are. Half second pause . . . "I'm dad's, Patrick is mom's." Four second pause . . . "That's, that's not true," said my mother. "I would agree with that," said my father. "JOE!" screamed my mother.

Big deal. Ryan's not losing any sleep that he's not a favorite (I'm going to argue he comes in third place for both parents but that's just me being spiteful) and I don't care that my mother prefers Patrick to me. He was the first one to make her a mother. He was the first of everything maternal for her. Fine. And that doesn't make my mother simple or make my brother less deserving of her "Most Favored Nation" status. He's a fantastic man, father, partner (to his girlfriend of 15 years), professional, friend, brother, and is incredibly bright and funny. Good for him. Good for them.  I don't know why I'm my father's favorite. I think it is because I was most like him in so many ways and I went the farthest to appease his hopes and expectations in my youth, and I was the first to his paternal instincts.

Here's why any of this matters . . . it is one of those weird places where we feel like we have to be "kind" before we are "honest" because we worry, so much, that someone might be hurt or offended if we were just honest about how we feel despite the fact that we would all (more than likely) agree that it is natural, expected, and to be celebrated that we have favorites in 99.999999% of the rest of the world (heck, I have a favorite shade of all seven colors, a favorite smell from the Yankee Candle store, and a favorite book in the Ivy & Bean series I read to my child).

Now . . . I know what some of you are doing . . . put your rooks down. My favorite parent is my mother (she is the strongest person I know) and my favorite brother is Ryan (he is just easier for me to talk to than Patrick and he is more alike me in behavior so we "get" each other more). But I love my father and a Patrick all the way to photo finishes and gleaming silver medals.