ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

NO FAVORITES

I just realized something: I wasn’t Mom and Dad’s favorite.

I know.  It’s hard for me to believe, too.  I mean, it always seemed so clear.  So evident.  So obvious.  I was the youngest of their eight children and they let me do all kinds of things my older brothers and sisters couldn’t do.  I had them all to myself from my sophomore year of high school on.  We weren’t just family, we were friends.  Buddies. Soul mates.  I hardly ever complained about Dad’s snoring.  And I pretended not to notice when Mom cheated at Yahtzee.

Mom all but told me I was her favorite the morning Kathy, my youngest sibling, got married.  I guess it’s OK to admit now that I was pretty upset about Kathy leaving home.  For most of my life she and I had fought and tormented one another (the incident during which I tried to kill her with a crutch comes to mind) but we had grown pretty close during the last few years we both lived at home.  Why would she leave just when things were just starting to get pleasant?

That morning was kind of tough for me, in an overwrought teenage emotion kind of way.  And Mom knew it.  Just as she was heading out the door to help Kathy get ready for her wedding, Mom paused and gave me a wink and a smile.

“Let’s get this over with,” she said confidentially, “then you and I can have some fun!”

OK, she didn’t exactly say “let’s get rid of this baggage and then finally we can focus on you!”  But that’s how I interpreted it.  From that moment on I knew that I was the favorite child.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday was Jon’s 15th birthday.  Jon is the youngest of our five children, and if a parent is permitted to say so, he’s a great kid.  Not perfect, by any means, but a joy in so many ways.  He’s fun and lively and he doesn’t seem to mind hanging out with his parents once in a while.  Yes, I know that will change during the next couple of years. But for now we enjoy it.

Anita and I have learned a little during the process of raising five children, so we do a few things differently now than when our eldest children were teenagers.  We are also more stable financially – not wealthy, but not quite as hand-to-mouth as we were 15 years ago.  As a result, Jon has more freedom and nicer toys than his older siblings had when they were his age.

For example, we got him a little motorized scooter for his birthday.  Nothing fancy – just fun.  Jon was delighted and couldn’t wait to take it out for a spin.  He’s a long, gangly kid, and he looked kind of like Ichabod Crane – sans Headless Horseman – tooling around on his scooter.

Watching him, I couldn’t help but think how much his older brother Joe would have enjoyed something like that on his 15th birthday.  Of course, 12 years ago motorized scooters hadn’t been invented yet, and even if they had been we couldn’t have afforded one back then.  Still, I found myself wishing we would have been able to get Joe something like that.

That’s when it hit me.  The older kids tease us about how Jon is our favorite, and how we spoil him.  While there may be some truth in the “spoil” part (although I think that is overstated), there is absolutely no truth in the “favorite” part.  We love Jon.  We adore him.  But we also love and adore Joe and Amy and Andrea and Beth.  They are all our favorites – every one.  Put a plate of steaming Brussels’ sprouts in front of me (shudder!) and tell me I have to choose my favorite child or eat the whole plate, and pretty soon my mouth is going to be full of Brussels’ sprouts.

Like most parents, I think, I couldn’t choose a favorite child.  And if I couldn’t choose, it’s a pretty safe bet my parents couldn’t choose either.  Which means I probably wasn’t their favorite – buddies, soul mates and Yahtzee notwithstanding.

And that’s OK, I guess.  In fact, it’s kind of comforting.  Because if I don’t have a favorite and Mom and Dad didn’t have a favorite, probably God – the Perfect Parent – doesn’t have favorites either.

No matter how clear, evident or obvious it may seem that He does.

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— © Joseph Walker

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