How could you say that?
It started as a joke. From the time my oldest was born, I told him he was my favorite. Of course he was my favorite. There was no competition. Funny. Haha. I enjoyed telling him, “You’re my favorite,” and, “You’re the best one.”
Then when I learned I was expecting my second baby, I said these things to my firstborn as many times as I could before I could never say them ever again to either child. I felt bad that I’d never be able to say it to my second son because I couldn’t play favorites once he was here and there was, in fact, “competition.”
Here’s the thing: I still tell him those things. I mean it, and I don’t feel bad about it.
I know exactly what some of you are thinking. That’s a horrible thing to say. I would never say that about my children. Maybe not. I would have thought exactly the same thing before having children or even having one child.
But some of you feel, have felt, or are worried about feeling exactly the same way. You feel ashamed and wonder if the way you’re feeling is normal.Feelings are normal. Having feelings that you feel embarrassed about is extra normal. Click To Tweet
For those of you who are there, have been there, or never will be there and are just wondering what kind of freak of a mother I am for feeling this way, read on.
Here’s why he’s my favorite:
- He was my first baby.
Let’s start with the obvious. He was here first. I’ve had time to build a relationship with him. We’ve bonded And because he’s the oldest, I’ve seen how he’s now a big brother to my newborn. You know that feeling of loving your partner even more after seeing them love someone you love? I see how Abel loves Theodore, and it makes me love Abel even more.
- He’s a medical marvel.
Have you watched Friends? (It’s okay if you don’t. I didn’t for the longest time, but it’s become one of my favorite light-hearted shows!) In Episode 713, Ross’s dad explains to him, “I suppose we may have favored you unconsciously. You were a medical marvel! The doctors said your mother could never–” His sentence is cut short, but the context implies doctors said Ross’s mother could never conceive.
My husband and I didn’t know if we’d ever have children of our own. All we had was a poor semen analysis, many failed conception cycles, and one early miscarriage after our first 2.5 years of trying to conceive.
Abel was the answer to our prayers, a final “Yes” after many repeats of “Wait.” By the time we conceived him, we understood that life was a fleeting gift, and we cherished every fragile moment since learning of his existence, knowing we could lose him but hoping so hard that we wouldn’t. We tried with all our might to slow time and remember every second of my pregnancy and of his first months of life– a feat made easier by the fact that he was our only baby at the time.
- Having him in my life feels magical.
Having the privilege to conceive, carry, and raise a baby of my own has been magical. Even our stay in the hospital felt enclosed in a snowglobe. It was a scene from Lala Land, separated from our lives before and after it by a glass bubble, untouched by work or bills or bitterness from past struggles. The snowglobe sits on a display shelf in my mind. I can pull it down at will, look through the glass orb, and see that scene clearly with my mind’s eye.The magic continued after bringing him home from the hospital. Every moment was filled with wonder and anticipation. When would he reach his next milestone? What will he look like? Who will he be? My five months of maternity leave– spent getting to know him and trying to convince myself that this was actually my life now– is a time which can never be emulated.Maybe this is how it is with every firstborn, though it’s likely my feelings were amplified by the months of waiting and hoping for a baby of our own.
- He makes my heart feel light.Abel woke up at least once or twice a night until he was 10 months old. I would wake to the sound of his cries through the monitor and slowly, groggily, make my way out of bed and to his room on the other side of the house, fighting back the thought of “This sucks.” Of course it didn’t suck. This is what people dreamed of! This is what I dreamed of for years! Then the moment I laid eyes on him, all the tired and “this sucks” went away. I remembered instantly how much I loved him and how happy he made me. My face would break into a smile, my voice into a cheerful, “Hello,” no matter the time of night. I had missed him without even realizing it, and I cherished these night wakings as extra time with my baby.Now almost two years old, the sight of his sweet face gives me the same feeling at all early hours of the morning. That moment I open his door and catch his gaze, it’s just the two of us in a grand reunion.
- I like him.
This may seem like a given since he is my child, but the fact is children are people, and sometimes people have conflicting personalities. Abel is sweet, funny, and neat. He loves meeting (and flirting with) new people– a trait I admire since I was always so shy. He laughs readily and likes using his napkin. I see parts myself in him, but also parts I don’t have. He has felt like the perfect child for us from the beginning. It helped me see that we waited for him for a reason. Countless times I’ve marveled that had our story read differently, we would have had a different child.
I’m sure as Theodore reveals his personality and I get to know him, he will also make my life magical and my heart feel light. What I like about him already so far is that he loves his momma cuddles, and he sleeps through the night already!
Here’s how I eliminate the mom guilt:
- I keep each relationship separate.
I’ve put nearly two years into my relationship with Abel. Besides that, as I hinted at earlier, each child has their own personality. Expecting my relationship with my second child to be as strong from the beginning as my relationship with my first would be like promoting each new friend to “best friend” just because my oldest friend is my best friend. Relationships take time to build. That’s good! I want a special relationship which each of my children, separate from one another.
- I don’t compare one child to the other.
This goes along with keeping each relationship separate. Each child is his own person. I acknowledge their differences– such as how Abel was born with a lot of hair or how Theodore sleeps through the night– without wishing each of their differences onto the other.
I don’t stroke Theodore’s relatively bald head and wish he had as much hair as Abel did when he was born. I don’t tell Abel he used to suck at sleeping and that I wish he had been better. I don’t wish Abel was small again or hope Theodore will be as social as him.
While my oldest currently feels like my favorite, I don’t put any weight on this or any other comparison.Comparison is the root of mom guilt. Click To TweetKnowing my boys are individuals with their own appearances, personalities, stories, and timelines wards off the mom guilt I might otherwise feel for having a favorite right now.
- Newborns are just plain blobby.
My second baby is an awesome sleeper, and awesome eater, and an awesome pooper. That’s it. There’s not much more to it than that in the first few weeks. The fact it I just don’t know him yet. Abel being my favorite is just part of my relationship with him, and I just don’t know Theodore well enough yet to give that up. So while I mourned the loss of the ability to tell Abel he was my favorite and said it as many times as I could until Theodore’s birth, I still sneak it in every once in a while.No, that’s a lie. I tell him loudly and lovingly for all in the room to hear. It feels good to continue that piece of our unique relationship even now that Theodore is here. That sense of familiarity is important for both of us right now.
- I love each of my children equally.Does this sound contradictory? This is a significant distinction. While I’ve invested enough sleepless, wonderful hours into my relationship with my oldest child for me to deem him my favorite (for now), I love my second child just as much as I do my first. The difference is I have fallen in love with Abel, but not yet with Theodore.There's a difference between loving and being in love. Click To TweetI will make all the same sacrifices and attempt to invest just as much time and energy into my relationship with Theodore. He’s already beginning to give me that light-heart feeling when he wakes me up in the middle of the night and early hours of the morning. I value our time and our cuddles just as much as I did with Abel when he was a newborn. I will build a relationship with Theodore that is just as unique and meaningful as my relationship with Abel. It will take time, and I’m going to enjoy the process.
- I do what I can to make each child feel special.
What does that mean?
They each have their own lullabies. For Abel, it’s Lost Boy by Ruth B. For Theodore, it’s Michael Bublé’s version of I’m Feeling Good.
They have their own nicknames. This one is hard to keep up because I’m so used to using Abel’s nicknames, but Abel will always be my Sweet Honey Muffin Cake (Don’t worry. That’s not his most-used nickname. This is what I call him when I’m feeling extra affectionate.) Theodore is currently Freshie. We’re working on it.
They have their own clothes. I debate with myself about this importance of this. Part of me wants to be a minimalist mom who uses all hand-me-downs and teaches her children that material items don’t matter. (Sounds good, right?) The other part of me appreciated having some of my own things growing up– things which had sentimental value or that expressed my identity. I’m going with the latter on this one. Mostly the baby wears Big Brother’s old clothes, but buying a few items that are his own is helping establish his individuality both for his sake and for ours
They have their own memories. Starting with pregnancy, I have made a point to create different memories with each child. This establishes from the beginning that each child is different, as will be my parenting experience and relationships with each of them. With Abel, I had a pregnancy book, a professional maternity shoot outdoors, and a baby shower. With Theodore, I had a prenatal massage, a boudoir-style photoshoot, and a Welcome Baby Mother’s Day lunch.
- But I also treat them the same. After all, I’m only one person. I do my best to meet their individual needs, but ultimately I treat and teach them equally. I divide my one-on-one time as evenly as possible. I am equally patient or concerned with each of them. I know that I’m doing everything I can to love my boys equally. Here, I mean “love” as in the action rather than the feeling.
Of course, my newborn probably doesn’t appreciate these gestures just yet. He doesn’t currently have many feelings beyond hungry, tired, or having a dirty diaper, but I feel confident I’m doing everything in my power for him to feel just as special and loved as his brother, and that’s all anyone can expect from me.Favorite child? Beat the mom guilt. #momguilt #2under2 Click To Tweet
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