Still cleaning out old files, and I stumbled upon this essay that I wrote 18 years ago. My folks were still with us, and my boys were still at home.
I didn’t set out to write it for publication. It was an exercise. The writing prompt at a Joplin Writers’ Guild meeting was to start with the phrase “I don’t remember a time when…”
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel loved. It’s a joke that my parents like my sister best because she’s the oldest, but I’ve never really believed that. I’ve been the lucky one; I’ve been the one who has always been #1 to them. That’s how I feel, but I don’t really know how they feel. They’ve never shown favoritism for one of their five kids.
My best moment as a mother came a couple years ago when I overheard the boys arguing about who was my favorite. I listened shamelessly from the kitchen as each one argued his case. And each of the three felt he was my favorite. I’ve never felt more successful in my life.
The truth is I have a favorite. But that favorite changes as the boys act up. Sometimes it’s Landon, who can act very mature. When he starts to behave irresponsibly, my favorite switches to Morgan, who of all the boys is the most like me. We are both shy, but determined. We work for what we earn, but we are lucky, too, and in the right place at the right time.
When Morgan starts his attitude problem of “Why should I?” or “I don’t care,” I switch to Marshall. He still needs me. He’s young enough that he still seeks my approval. At the moment he needs me to help get his brand new contacts in and out. They all need me in a symbolic way. They all need to know they are loved.
Even though Landon is the big college man now, I don’t remember a time when he didn’t need us, although there were a few nights that he didn’t want us to know what he was up to. Morgan is about to reach that stage, and Marshall will follow.
Too bad that we must all go through the cycles of growing up that may harm others by our indifference and our selfishness. But there are lessons to learn from that, too.
And I hope my boys don’t remember a time when they weren’t loved. Because I can’t.