"Mom," a whisper comes through the darkness, "Mom, guess what?"
"What?" I respond, knowing what is coming next.
"You're my favorite." My five-year-old snuggles against me, moving deeper under his fuzzy blanket.
"You're MY favorite," I respond and hug him to me.
Soon I hear the sounds of his steady breathing and preschool snores, and I leave the room to cuddle with my "other favorites."
* * *
Everyone knows that moms aren't supposed to have favorites. Oldest, youngest, middle child - we are not supposed to love one more than another.
But ask any mom, and she will tell you that sometimes she likes one just a tiny bit more than the others.
Not that we tell them that, but it's true, Maybe it's their age at the time, maybe it's their gender, maybe it's their interests and likes, or maybe it's simply that the other one is currently in kind of a butt head phase right now and we just can't deal. Seriously, though, I find that when one of my children is being particularly difficult, it makes the others look that much better.
When my oldest son, Joey, was diagnosed with cancer, I was absolutely devastated as any parent would be. Adding to my devastation was the fact that he was my favorite child. Yes, it's true. I knew I wasn't supposed to have a favorite, but I did at the time.
He was five, and five is so fun. It's a time of discovery and wonder, a time of moving out of the whiny "I'll do it myself, but HELP MEEEEEE" phase. They begin to be able to really do it themselves. They become fun little companions. They have minds of their own, but you are able to reason with them. Five is fun, and Joey was five.
He was also my first born and most desperately wished for child. I went through a lot to get him and his brother here. He was my little shadow, he was "so my boy" as he liked to tell me. And at the time, he wasn't the baby, he wasn't the whiny three-year-old, and he wasn't the brother with all the special needs.
At the time.
And that's just the thing - they all move in and out of favored child status at any one point in time.
I'm sure many of you, like me, have ages that you've loved. My favorite baby age is between nine and fifteen months. They are sitting up and smiling and interacting and discovering, they are sleeping well and are easy to take on-the-go. They are fun at that age!
They go through some rough patches right when they get into school - second grade girls are tough and third grade boys - wow. Ten has to be one of my favorite ages. They are still sweet, beginning to mature, but not talking back quite yet.
Right now at my house I have a new teenager - 13 - and an eleven-year-old, a nine-year-old, and that sweet five-year-old. There is something in which to find favor at all those ages, and times I think that it's quite all right to tell them "YOU are my favorite."
Thirteen at our house is atypical and sometimes difficult. It is autism and ADHD and emails and notes home from school. It is reminders to shower and brush teeth and take medications and study for that test. But it is also someone who will always take the dog out and appreciate what's for dinner. It surprises us with the ease at which it can call a classmate for homework advice or have a conversation with an adult guest. It gets every joke that's told and it provides some zingers of it's own. It's a knowing look, a helping hand, and a hope for what's to come.
Sometimes, thirteen is my favorite.
Eleven at our house is growing faster than I can track. Feet that bust out of school shoes less than halfway through the year. Feet that stink so bad I have to move off the couch to avoid them. It is blowing through a box of cereal every two days. It is being helpful and kind to everyone one minute and an absolute bear the next. It hasn't quite set those stinky feet firmly on one favorite thing; and it is embarrassed of it's mother sometimes. The other times, it wants to cuddle and look at cute dogs on Instagram. It's gaining momentum.
Sometimes eleven is my favorite.
Nine at our house is our biggest challenge. I am afraid we are messing nine up real good. Nine is torn between having just left little boy status behind and having not quite arrived at the big boy party. Nine finds it hard to control it's emotions. Nine still needs lots of reminders. But nine can realize when he's messed up. It can apologize and hug and make promises that it's still not sure it can keep. Nine misses the brother it barely knew. Nine is the only brother in the house who is a friend to every other brother, and it is the only dog walker in the house who will actually pick up the dog poop. Nine is charming. Nine will be okay.
Sometimes nine is my favorite.
Five at our house is the 180 degree turn - the one who came back around again. Five is the one who was born after we lost the other five-year-old. Almost like it started a new family. Almost like it took some tips from another five year old we knew. Five at our house knows it is cute, feels how special it is. Five at our house has one of us wrapped around it's finger. It has older brothers, so sometimes it says things it shouldn't or talks back because it seems like the thing to do. But five is also a helper, a doer, a confident little mayor who works a crowd like nobody's business. Five is everything this mom wanted another child to be - no pressure, of course, we'll see.
Sometimes five is my favorite.
I think it's okay for a mom to have favorites. Favorite ages, favorite years in school, favorite moments in time. The great thing about those kinds of favorites is that every child gets a turn to be one.
And the great thing about those private moments like the one I shared above is that no other kid has to know you had it. Just your favorite at the time.
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