(Jump to the end to evaluate the type of child you are.)
I’m out with Saint Mick, not in Thana City in Bangkok or in Broughton, Lincolnshire. I’m actually heading off to ‘ The Little Red Gallery’ in a place called Stamford, in pursuit of a piece of art by an artist called Roz Bell. Her work is bold and colourful-you might even say brash; her pictures of elephants are a bright reminder of living both in Thailand and Tanzania and the colours she uses in her flower pictures are stunningly vibrant. Take a look. We’re in the Porsche as there are no kids in tow as Betsy has gone to London for a few days to stay with her sister, so we’re practising for retirement and enjoying the day!
I just texted both of the girls actually, (note the direction of the correspondence-me to them, not them to me), to see how they were getting on. They’re fine and after a lazy morning are heading for brunch before a trip to Oxford Street (courtesy of Grandma’s pocket money!) When they are away I’ve time to notice that I react quite differently emotionally to their absence. Betsy is the younger of the two, and she would readily admit a bit of a Miranda Hart type. Consequently I’m worrying that she has got to where she needs to be without incident or drama. Annie will be looking out for her, but I’m second-guessing how she will be feeling about being in loco-parentis role. I am never quite sure what is going on in that head of hers! I’m feeling protective and proud towards them both equally, but for different reasons – back to my same/same but different notion which I was wittering on about in my last post!
I wonder if the girls perceive my different parental concerns as favouritism. I’ll have to ask them when they get back. My hunch is that Bets will think I demonstrate favouritism towards Annie by trusting her more and praising her capability. Annie, on the other hand, would be forgiven for thinking that I worry about Betsy more than I ever have done about her, so in comparison may feel she is quite neglected!
There are probably lots of reasons why kids assume that their parents favour their siblings rather than themselves. For example, parents tend to have a bottomless pit of forgiveness, which can be annoying for the sibling who hasn’t done anything that needs forgiving! I’ve got to admit I’ve got a good lot of sympathy for Joseph’s brothers, why the heck should he get the techni-coloured dream-coat. Seriously, he swans back in and is immediately back in his dad’s good books.
Kids have a huge sense of what is just or unjust and I think it is this sense of not being treated fairly that is seen as central to questions of favoritism. I guess there’s a reason why the ‘it’s not fair’ phrase never goes out of fashion. Of course, being a favourite child applies to offspring of all ages and times. Think of poor old Cordelia in King Lear - her situation really isn’t fair. Just because she won’t suck up to Lear she gets exiled from the whole kingdom. Talk about losing ‘favourite child’ status in style!
I think that there is a bit of a chicken and egg concept at play when exploring whether and why favouritism exists in parental attitudes to siblings. Is it the offspring’s behaviour that determines whether they are the favourite or does the favouritism (be it real or perceived) stem from inconsistencies in parenting?
Kids (even grown up ones) can bicker and feel resentment about whether they are their parents’ favourite. Familial relationships can be so complex and messy that it isn’t easy to objectively analyse if you are indeed a ‘favourite child’ and I guess the really interesting question would be, why does it even matter? This Daily Mail article (so it must be true!) says it is the youngest child who is the favourite so I’m fine! Perhaps a more enlightening approach to exploring this is to think about what type of son or daughter you are and have been and whether you consequently deserve to be the favourite.
These are the types I can think of:
The Whirlwind - The status of the ‘whirlwind’ can only really be achieved in late middle age. The Whirlwind generally does not live close to home; their visits are sparse but enthusiastically executed. The whirlwind’s visit is a flurry of organising, tidying, cleaning, planning and treat giving. Much is achieved in a Whirlwind’s weekend visit and parents are left full of gratitude, but slightly shell-shocked. In all honesty, parents are not sorry to wave off the Whirlwind, though do enjoy sharing all that has been accomplished in a boastful manner with neighbours and friends.
The Plant Pot - The Plant pot is almost the polar opposite of the Whirlwind. When they visit they plonk down on the sofa, comment on dust on the TV stand or wherever it may be, and expect to be fed, watered, sheltered and spoken gently to for the duration of their stay. They thrive under these care conditions, but ironically the parents being visited don’t.
The Well-Meaning But Misguided - The Well-Meaning But Misguided’s intentions are sound, but they are unlikely to achieve favourite status. The Well-Meaning is full of positive and helpful suggestions for how to do things differently and better (i.e, their own way). This ranges from how to hang the washing out, to what to buy at the supermarket, to where to position the sofa. These suggestions are usually good ideas but not always well received. The Well-Meaning’s But Miguided’s nickname, used by the parent in their absence is the ‘Knobby-Know-All’.
The Egg Sucker - The Egg Sucker is likely to be in their early twenties and be entering a new phase of financial security and independence. Their skillset includes giving advice on everything from marital relationships, to how to cook dinner, to how they themselves could have been brought up better. The irony of this is usually lost on the Egg Sucker, but not the parent. The Egg Sucker can be extremely irritating
The Sponge – the Sponge, otherwise known as the Pacifier, knows more gossip about the parent’s friends and neighbours than they themselves do, due to endless hours of being talked to. If The Sponge has a qualification in Counselling and can appropriately add questions to the conversation, such as “How does that make you feel?” their title changes to The Listener. The Sponge’s visits provide a valuable outlet enabling parents to vent. The Sponge often feels saturated and needs to wring out after visiting their parents.
The Clown - The Clown sees their role in the family to entertain their parents. They are not above performing a bit of a show, song or dance even when in their late middle-age. This causes concern amongst parents who often question post-visit, if the changeling child really belongs to them.
The Helper - The Helper has very good intentions and hovers around as parents prepare drinks and meals and offers to help. The Helper’s weakness tends to be that they think parents are incapable of doing all the every day activities that they complete all the time the Helper isn’t there. The Helper can be known to overstep the mark causing both confusion and offence when stepping unintentionally into Critic or Whirlwind mode.
The I’m Gonna Soon - The I’m Gonna Soon has a deep need to impress their parents and isn’t above a bit of exaggeration when talking about their accomplishments or achievements. For example, the I’m Gonna Soon would equate modest sales to the likelihood of becoming the next J.K Rowling. The I’m Goona Soon has been known to present themselves as The Helper and frequently offers to do tasks around their parents’ house. Sadly though, this never gets beyond the discussion stage.
I’m obviously joking with the above stereotypes, but now I’ve created them I’m afeared I fit some of the more negative ones. Yikes! Thank goodness that sibling rivalry doesn’t really seem a thing with my own kids and that their ‘daughter’ behaviour is exemplary (most of the time!). I should finish by saying that I DEFINITELY DO NOT have a favourite – Same/Same but different is my motto. I will check this post with a fine toothcomb to make sure that praise and possible insults have been dished out exactly equally! However, girls, if you are reading and do fancy just getting ahead on the ‘favouritism’ stakes I’d be quite happy for the odd touch of The Whirlwind added to a glug of The Listener. I definitely don’t need any of The Critic though – stay well clear of that one!
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