In one sense, I understand what Canadian radio host and writer Buzz Bishop was trying to say when he admitted this week in his Internet blog that his oldest son is his favorite child.
With all due respect to my seven older brothers and sisters, I was Mom's favorite. We all know that, right? How many times did we hear her say, "Last the best of all the game"?
I was last. I was best. I was her favorite.
End of story.
But I also understand why Bishop's blog post — "Admit it, you have a favorite kid. I do" — ruffled a few feathers around the World Wide Web.
The consensus of opinion among those who have commented on his story — other than the opinion that he should be tarred and feathered and burned at a stake made of recycled Father's Day cards — is that a good parent doesn't have a favorite child, and if he or she DOES have a favorite they should never under any circumstances say so. At least, not publicly — like, for example, on an Internet blog or in a newspaper column, where your children can one day read your words and be traumatized forever.
To which I say: Hooey.
I've been writing about my wife, Anita, and our five children in this space for 22 years now. In all those years, there isn't one of them who hasn't been at least chagrined and occasionally outraged by something I have written and published for all the world — or at least, 14 subscribing newspapers — to see.
As of this moment — and I realize that things could change in the next 400 words or so — they are all speaking to me. None of them is in jail. And at least two of them are gainfully employed.
They've come to understand that having a father who writes about the family on a weekly basis means that once in a while he's going to say something remarkably stupid, or unintentionally hurtful. As it says on a message pillow one of my daughters gave me a few years ago: "Embarrassing my family: Just one more service I offer."
So the trauma induced by a father's well-intentioned written words is probably overstated, no matter how badly bungled those words may be. (Believe me, around here we know ALL about badly bungled words.)
And as far as having a favorite child is concerned … well, who doesn't?
Amy is my favorite because she was my first child. She introduced me to fatherhood. And her brain works exactly like mine does (poor thing).
Joe is my favorite because he is really smart and really funny and a joy to be around, and he is just as passionate about my favorite sports teams as I am.
Andrea is my favorite because she has always — always — been able to make me smile, and she reminds me so much of her mother with her work ethic, her loyalty, and her bold and courageous individualism.
Beth is my favorite because even though she has the toughness and intellectual aggressiveness of a cynical journalist, she has a soft and tender heart, and she actually seems to enjoy hanging out with her mom and dad.
And Jon is my favorite because he is my baby even though he just turned 21. People say he looks and acts like me when I was his age. If that is true, it's a much-improved version of me, in every respect. No wonder he's my favorite.
You see, it isn't that I don't have a favorite child. I have FIVE favorites. And I think that's an important distinction. I don't love my children equally — I love each one of them individually as intensely as I am capable of loving them. I have no idea how to parcel out equal portions of love to these remarkable people who have such a hold on my heart. I only know how to love them — individually and collectively — with all my heart and everything that I am. As if each one is my favorite.
Because each one is.
To read more by Joseph B. Walker, please go to www.josephbwalker.com.