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Favorite boy, favorite girl

My daughter has started to refer to her brother as “Favorite Boy.” You might think that this is not an epithet, but you would be wrong. She is skilled at turning any fine word into an insult, when her brother is the one she’s referring to.

In this particular case, after years of not pulling the “you love him more than me” line on me, suddenly she has started to say that I favor my son over her. She’ll take any excuse: If I ask her to stop hitting her brother, he is “Favorite Boy.” If I tell her to pick up her shoes in the middle of the floor, it’s because he is “Favorite Boy.” Heck, I bet if I asked her to hit her brother, she’d find a way to turn it into favoritism.

En garde!

Watch out for little sister!

I remember feeling this way. I remember telling my friend—perhaps I was the same age she is now—that my father hated me. I remember this as being very matter of fact. He hates me, and I have proof. I remember that we would sit on our beds and discuss these weighty matters: who had a loving parent, which of us had the more evil sibling, what we’d do if we ever found a way to get away from our miserable families.

Of course, the ironic thing is that eventually, pretty much every one of us got away from our families. And did our families say “good riddance” and erase our existence? Hardly. Things went on pretty much as before, except that we weren’t around each other nearly as much and so all the little things that drove us crazy about each other faded into the background.

Though I bet my little brother still hasn’t forgiven me for slamming his finger in the door.

Or did I do that to him? I can’t quite remember.

I’ve been thinking a lot about developmental milestones lately. The early ones are really obvious: When your toddler notices that your body is actually separate from his. When your preschooler finds out that other children have feelings. When your 6-year-old discovers universal laws of morality and applies them to everyone (especially her brother).

Perhaps this “who is Mommy’s favorite” thing is developmental. Perhaps she has some biological need—now that she’s figured out that she’s not a part of me, that her brother has feelings, and that everyone in the Whole World has wronged her—to find the pecking order in our family. Perhaps it’s because her brother is a teen and she is just entering adolescence. Were they princes, she would just now be realizing that her brother is destined to be king while she will probably end up a jester.

If they had other siblings, these ordinal musings would come and go. Today she might see her older brother as the favorite; another day it might be her younger sister.

But our family—like more and more modern families—is organized as sets of two. One father, one mother. One brother, one sister. Daily their genes battle to find dominance, and only find one other person to exert dominance over. The cave-person instinct to suspect the older brother is never put aside to thwart the ambitions of a younger sibling. At our house, there is apparently one throne, and two possible occupants.

Her brother the teen, of course, shrugs this off. His genes have him going off in another direction, thinking that instead of taking the throne, perhaps he’ll travel to uncharted lands.

We recently purchased a bunch of foam swords, and they have been getting lots of healthy use. I’m sure that someday the kids will return to the nest for a Thanksgiving dinner or perhaps to drag one of their parents off to an old folks home, and they’ll laugh about this.

“Do you remember how jealous of you I was?”

“You? Jealous of me? No way: Mom loved you more.”

“No, way, Favorite Boy! You were always her favorite.”

First born!

Perpetual baby!

Inheritor of the throne!

The one who got to have all the fun.

OK, maybe they won’t laugh, but I will. Wheel me out, kids. I’m off to play some gin rummy and seduce those nurses into thinking I’m the best. The chosen one. The one who inherited my parents’ love and admiration.

Posted in Parenting, Psychology.

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