Goshen News, Goshen, IN

August 18, 2013

WHOLE FAMILY: Don’t have one favorite? Try liking them all


— I’m not her favorite. Whose favorite? Anybody’s favorite. I don’t think I ever have been anybody’s favorite, not really, not that I know of.

I remember getting that realization — “I’m not her favorite” — way back in elementary school. There was this classroom mother, I guess you’d call her, who would come in to school every so often. She’d bring treats, chat with us students and function as the teacher’s helper.

A group of us girls would flock to her, maybe mostly because she was mom to one of the cutest boys in class. This mom was pretty; she was “cool,” as we said in the 1980s.

And while she doted on each of us girls some, complimenting our feathered bangs, leg warmers and pegged jeans, she seemed to like one girl the best. Her favorite. And that girl definitely was not I.

Oh, it’s OK. I’m OK. But I’m realizing this not-being-the-favorite thing is a common characteristic of my life. Now, I will say I am usually among the top, often even memorable — academically, socially, professionally, athletically — but I don’t think I’ve ever really been someone’s “favorite.” Not my coaches’ favorite or teachers’ or bosses’ or editors’ or friends’. I have sometimes looked at the favorite — there’s one in every crowd — and wondered what she had that I didn’t.

I never really figured it out and remained nobody’s favorite. Aww, poor me.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines favorite as “one that is treated or regarded with special favor or liking … a person who is specially loved, trusted, or provided with favors by someone of high rank or authority.” Other definitions note the word to mean the best or most liked anything of its kind.

If you think about it, we are pretty liberal with the word “favorite,” which I occasionally like to say, like my Amish friends do, with a long I, as in “favoreye-t.” From me: “Oh, hot, strong coffee is my FAVOREYET.” People use it in other ways, too. In a sporting event, an athlete might be the “favorite” – the one expected to win – and people who prefer to be vague rather than tell someone they hate something might say with a pinched smile, “Eggplant parmesan is not my favorite.”

I recently realized “favorite” comes up quite often with my ever-learning sponge of a toddler. We lay in bed and chat: “What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite thing to do?” Other people ask him the same; perhaps it’s just a rudimentary way to converse with a 2-year-old? (He told me recently having small tree frogs in the house are his “fer-avorite,” by the way. We’ll see what next week brings.)

Have your children asked you yet, “who’s your favorite child?” I’ve gotten that question a time or two. It’s an easy answer. With children — and I have four — there just isn’t a “favorite” in the most simple sense. You love them all in different ways. Even if there were a favorite child, and I don’t find it hard to believe there could be, I certainly wouldn’t say so.

So now I have this theory. Perhaps by always defining a favorite, we set ourselves — and others — up to strive to be or to seek out the “favorites” in life, and, in doing so, we experience or cause disappointment, maybe resentment or envy or jealousy, where we might not otherwise feel or grow those unpleasantries? What do you think?

See, the real questions to myself are, “So what you’re not someone’s favorite? SO WHAT? Who says you have to be a favorite? Are you not blessed anyway, even as the NOT favorite?” Exactly. In all my own endeavors where I might be well-liked, respected but just not the “favorite,” I do fine. Just fine. I experience success and pleasure regardless of not being the favorite. In fact, many times it’s nice to just be one — laterally — among others.

And why do we have to have favorite everything? Why a favorite color or ice cream flavor? Is it not richer to like several or — as in ice cream or children – favor them all? If I have favorites myself — and let on — might I not breed bad feelings in others? I could favor doula clients, for example, but how awful would that be?

Further, “seeking” our favorites all the time also can lead to great disappointments. If I’m only happy with my favorite hot, strong coffee, how will I manage where I can only get cold, weak coffee – as occasionally and tragically happens?

In general I think I’m over this “favorite” thing. Who cares what my favorite is? Or if I’m ever someone’s favorite myself? Satisfaction can be otherwise achieved: Do good and be blessed. If I get favor, great. If not, I still will have done good and been blessed in doing so.

So, for the most part, I’m done asking my children what their favorite things are. Heavens, their answers might frighten me anyway. Because having small tree frogs in the house? Not my favorite.

Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at wholefamily@goshennews.com, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”