What would you say if I told you that I loved my daughter more than my sons? Or that I loved my sons more than my daughter? Or if I loved my children more than my husband? Or that I loved my husband more than I did my children?
Well, apparently that is essentially what one blogger did, and she’s getting some heat for her post. She writes about loving her son more than her daughter and the difficulties she had bonding with her daughter, who is also her firstborn. And she responds to some really, really mean comments explaining that her post was more about her deepest darkest fears more than a day-to-day intentional favoritism.
But my first reading struck a nerve for various reasons, and I hope it did for you too. Writing about your deepest darkest fears publicly means you better be ready to take what comes at you, and the author pulled the blogpost and then wrote an update clarifying her first post. The blogosphere is a fickle thing. What blogger doesn’t want 400+ comments? Well, when some of those comments tell you that you are stupid, insane, unfit, etc. the number of comments won’t matter. After all that stuff with Deadly Viper, I’ve put much more prayer and pause into each word and post.
Her post also made me think about sibling rivalry in real life – me and my sister, my husband and his siblings, and my own kids. It made me think about Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, Martha and Mary. And how all of us children, girls and boys, have parents who loved their children but failed. Could you imagine the blog posts Abel, Esau and Leah would have written?
Thank God we can all take a breath and remember we’re all human. Right?
Human, flawed parents. Because only a real but imperfect parent in a broken world wouldn’t automatically cry with tears of joy and feel her heart burst when her perfect newborn is placed in her arms. I cried for those reasons and because I was scared out of my hospital gown that my doctor was going to discharge me and assume I had not only read all of the baby books but memorized the information so that I could take care of that teeny, tiny baby whose head (which apparently was still soft and mushy) and body flopped around. How could she not be my favorite?
I actually joke with my kids about being my favorite. Every now and then I will look at my daughter and say, “You are my favorite daughter.” She’s my only daughter. I tell my second child, “You are my favorite son born in June.” And then I’ll tell my youngest, “You are my favorite son born in October.”
My kids think I am crazy, but I say those things because in my heart of hearts I know that because I am human and sinful and flawed that sometimes my imperfect attempt at equal love is not received equally or expressed equally.
I know that to my sons it could look like I favor my daughter because she loves to spend time helping me pick out what outfit to wear to the wedding Peter and I will be attending on Saturday. The boys don’t want to help but they want my time, and today my time went to determining color-appropriateness for a spring but snowy wedding celebration.
And later this month it will look like I am favoring the boys because we are going to spend some time standing in line for the coal mine exhibit and staring at millions and millions of fish while I make jokes about eating shrimp and salmon for dinner. I will be doing my best to ruin my daughter’s spring break because I love my sons more.
When I want a big hug to make me feel good my youngest wins. He will still attempt the koala bear hug where he wraps his arms and legs around me and hang on with a big grin on his face. How could he not be my favorite? How could I not love him more?
When I want to hear words of encouragement and affirmation my older son wins. He will often come up to me and announce, “Mom, I love you. You are an awesome mom.” I use a bookmark he made for me for Mother’s Day four years ago. On it he writes that I am “caring, smart, honest, thankful, beautiful and organized”. Oh my goodness! How could he not be my favorite? How could I not love him more?
And when I want to laugh and share secrets and dreams and fears or dance down the aisle at Costco (actually, she’s the one who does that) or be the one she wants when she’s trying something new and scary my daughter wins. We’ve shared rites of passage together in Sephora, at the foot of her bed in whispers, giggles and tears, and at the wheel of a minivan. How can she not be my favorite? How could I not love her more?
But I don’t. I don’t love my daughter more than my sons or vice versa, but the possibility scares me. It’s scary because I’m Asian and there is a cultural history that has valued the lives of boys and men over the lives of girls and women. Family members hoped I would give birth to a son but God gave me what He thought best – a firstborn daughter. My life is not worth as much, even though my entire physical being as a woman is necessary to produce the more valuable sex.
It’s scary because I’m American with a history of wanting to put women in their place, and then move them into the factories because we were needed, and then putting women back to make space for the more deserving men. I live in America where the trafficking of women and girls is happening everyday and misogyny and sexism is not in the past but in our pop music, vernacular and paychecks. It is our country’s present.
And it’s really, really scary because we don’t want to admit it but we’ve all played favorites, and we’ve all been played. The former is easier than the latter in my experience. I was the smart one. My sister was the pretty one. My parents didn’t play favorites but their words of affirmation felt like it, and it took years/is taking years to untangle those childhood moments. I know I love each of my kids differently but I hope it’s equally because they are created so uniquely by a creative and perfect God, but my love is so imperfect that it’s bound to be misunderstood and unequal.
So I’ve been trying to ease my daughter’s pain by suggesting we go to cupcake shop or walk along the Mag Mile, but there is no way I am going to let my boys help me pick out my outfit for Saturday. (Hmmm. Sexist? Probably. But I’ll save that for another post another day…)