Katy Harrington and Heidi Scrimgeour discuss the impact parents choosing a favourite child can have on a family
Katy Harrington says she was not sure when she realised that her older brother, and middle child in the family, was the favourite, but she still teases him and her parents about it
SO A NEW American study says what every kid (unless you are an only child) already knew — that your parents probably have a favourite child.
I was the last of three children to arrive into my family, which probably means I wasn’t planned. Still, I know my parents were happy to add a girl to the mix.
They had two very boisterous boys already whose main interests were ruining any good clothes my mother bought them, breaking household furniture and beating each other up. When the youngest and only girl arrived, they were thrilled — someone new to beat up.
What I remember most from my early years as a small, bald and largely toothless blob of a child is the uncompromising and unadulterated love of both my parents. My mum wiping my bloody knees and tying my hair in pigtails, the stubbley kisses from my dad when he tucked us into to our ‘birds nests’ (beds) at night. What I realise now, with hindsight, is that my parents love was so complete it gave me a huge amount of confidence to go out into the world and become a success or a failure, it didn’t matter because when boyfriends and jobs went wrong, I’d always have that to come back to.
I’m not sure when I began to believe that Anthony, my older brother, and the middle child, was the favourite. But once the idea took hold, it never really left. In fact, I still tease him, and my parents about it. Most recently when his arrival home from London prompted my dad to go foraging for his best bottle of red wine, I gave my father a look and said “It’s fine dad, give him the good stuff, I’ll have the plonk as usual.” (My dad does get his own back on occasion he remarks that I’m his favourite daughter.)
Maybe the seed was first planted when I was very little and we’d meet people out in town, or visiting other people’s houses. While my brothers were running around looking for things to hit each other with, I was cooed at. “Ooh the youngest and the only girl, you must be so spoiled,” they’d say. And I was spoiled, but not the favourite.
And so to the Golden Boy, my annoyingly smart middle brother, who really earned his tongue-in-cheek title. Anthony was the youngest of all of us to start talking, and when he did, he never stopped. Enormous words, far too advanced for his six-, seven-, or eight-year-old brain came out of his mouth, so adults got a kick out of him. And it didn’t hurt that he was literally golden, with Goldilocks-worthy sun-spun buttery blonde hair. He was cute and clever so he got attention, that’s all there was to it.
There was no malice at all on the part of my parents (who always go with “We love you all equally… but in different ways”), or any of the babysitters who openly confessed to loving the Golden Boy most. And although we both noticed, neither me nor my eldest brother James, ever really minded, because we were as taken with him as everyone else was.
There were a few occasions when at our birthday parties Anthony would have to be given a present too lest he’s have the mother of all fits at the injustice of it all, and once (although I am too young to remember this) when he felt neglected at a party he hid under a table and started singing a song about being unloved.
I understand that in some families, favouritism could be something really toxic — but in ours it was, and still is, more of a family in-joke.
Now that I think of it as an adult — it’s crazy that we should demand our parents to be completely neutral. Because, shocker, they’re human too.
Heidi Scrimgeour says it’s possible to have a greater affinity with any one of your children, but favouritism is form consumables, not kids, and children are for loving unconditionally even when it hurts
I DON’T play favourites when it comes to my kids. I never have and never will. Of course, all three of my kids have at various times claimed I do, and each has obviously insisted that they are not the favoured one. That’s just life as siblings.
I can’t bear to think about the damage that might be done to a child by growing up in a family knowing that he or she is not the golden child, nor ever will be
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