I Don’t Have a Favorite Child, Just an Easier One
In a neurologically diverse family, it’s tempting to make comparisons. Though my wife and I know that comparing kids is not only counterproductive, but also unfair and unhealthy, we do struggle to figure out the right rewards for our neurotypical daughter when she does exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, without being reminded even once.
It’s after 9pm on a school night, and I’m driving Vivianna around town looking for a PopSocket for her cell phone.
“Dad,” she says, “We really don’t need to keep looking. I probably need to get home and get ready for bed.”
“Let’s just try one more place,” I say.
She recently got her first cell phone, and Laurie and I have both worked hard to get her the right phone and data plan, the best safety controls for an 11-year old girl, and the hippest, cutest case. This last piece, the PopSocket, is not necessary. But I told her I’d get her one, and we’ve been to three places already with no luck finding a fashionable one.
As we’re walking into this last store, Laurie calls and asks what’s taking so long. “I just want to get her one she likes,” I say.
“You’re hilarious,” she says. “I find it hard to believe you’d be driving any of the other kids around like this.”
I give a little chuckle because I know she’s right. Unlike her sister and two brothers, Vivi has no diagnosed medical issues. She’s easygoing, low-maintenance, and laid back. When she gets the gimmies and I say no, she shrugs her shoulders and says, “Ok!” This catches me off guard because I’m used to pushback or a scene from her siblings.
I love my four kids, and I genuinely love spending time with them. But three of them have attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), among other diagnoses, so sometimes life is… I guess the best word is complicated. I assume other parents with multiple kids feel the same struggle I do – to remind themselves they don’t have a favorite kid, just an easier one.
So Vivi and I finally find the perfect PopSocket, and as we’re checking out she taps me on the shoulder and points at an ice cream machine. “Baby doll,” I say, “Are you serious?! It’s way too late.”
“Oh right,” she says. “Never mind.” Then she pulls my arm so I lean down and kisses my cheek. “Thanks for the PopSocket, Daddy. I love it.”
I look over at the ice cream machine, and reconsider buying her a cone. Then I shake my head, as if to wake up from a dream. Snap out of it! I tell myself.
I feel guilty about this until we get home and I relay the story to Laurie. “Oh I get it,” she tells me. “She completes her chores correctly the first time. She does her homework without being told. I have to remind myself she’s capable of being rotten, too.”
“Like what?” I ask.
We both sit in silence for a moment, unable to remember a time she’s talked back or disobeyed us. Just then Vivi comes in to our bedroom. She’s wearing matching, fresh-smelling pajamas, which neither of us told her to put on. And she flashes a smile of sparking white teeth, which neither of us reminded her to brush. “Good night, Mom and Dad,” she says.
“Did you do your homework?”
She pauses for a moment to think. “Um…”
“Why didn’t you do your homework?” I ask.
“Well, we went shopping for the PopSocket…”
“Let me get this straight,” Laurie says. “You were home for three hours this afternoon doing nothing, and you’re going to blame your father who took you shopping?”
“Go to bed. We’ll wake you up early tomorrow and you can do it before school. And you can forget TV tomorrow after school.”
“Ok.” She hangs her head, softly says, “Good night,” and closes our door.
“I feel bad for her,” I say. “Let’s buy her a present.”
“Knock it off,” she says.