The Middle Child and the Intricacies of Favoritism in Family Bonds

Bristling with naked truths and honesty, my previous posts would have me flinching in embarrassment at times. Part memoir of sorts, this is supposed to be an anonymous blog coming from a lady in near mid-life with a few tales to tell. For she’s been around, been there, done this and that; possessing a faint hope that the few readers who’ll manage to visit here can learn a thing or two from her life stories.

I belonged to an average-class family and was the middle child, having an elder sister and a younger brother for my siblings. My family has been my wellspring of joy, hope and love. But it hasn’t been all peaches and cream for us. Like the majority of families in our society, I belong to a dysfunctional one. I have no problem admitting that. And don’t we all have some things in our past that fall under the categories of unresolved issues and painful recollections specifically when it comes to our relationship with our parents?

My father had eight children with his first wife. Three sons and five daughters, two of whom had been crowned with prestigious beauty titles. Now why did I include that tiny bit of information? Because that could substantiate the magnitude my Dad placed on beauty as the ultimate mark of a woman’s worth. This philosophy has lorded over our household for as long as I can remember. It so happens too that I’ve got a sister with nothing less than stunning physical features to grow up side by side with. Yes, I was your quintessential plain-looking damsel with the gorgeous sister. My sister, who gradually metamorphosed into a truly lovely swan as we were growing up, was endowed likewise with a radiant personality and feminine ways that easily earned people’s attention wherever we went. And she was not just your typical pretty dumb gal. Always an active participant in innumerable school activities, she’s also got a lot more to her than meets the eye. Sure enough, she has gone on to become successful in her field as a broadcaster in the years that followed after she completed college.

Meanwhile, I suffered in comparison during those tender years. Shorter in height, bashful and afflicted with insecurity issues about my physical appearance that paralleled with an all-time awareness of my mediocre intelligence and abilities, I had begun skating the edges of poor self-esteem.  In contrast to my sister’s highly demure ways, I was a bit of a tomboy. More comfortable in jeans and t-shirt, I’d engage in certain male sports and climb trees with nary a halt. Neither was I an angel sister or daughter to my family in its strictest sense.

Clan gatherings would find me sitting in a corner, getting hold of a newspaper or any material on sight so I could pretend to be reading or busily engrossed in something. I’d fail to draw attention from anyone if I did just that I figured. Unfortunately, somebody would end up noticing me including my cousins who would take turns teasing me and joking about how I’d someday end up as a convent nun or a spinster anarchist. 🙂

People have said one inevitable part of family ties is when parents find themselves feeling more strongly about one child than the others. The parents then must make sure not to cross the line by making it obvious to the other children. I think they’re dead wrong in assuming it could be that simple. At least not in our case.

This is one of the most difficult posts I had to write from a long-buried memory I’ve been reluctant to dig once again. I knew I’d be coming face to face with my emotions as I start opening the wounds which explored the complexities that bind my present kinship with my family to the past.

A painful portion of my life that had me occasionally and seriously questioning my father’s parental skills.

Starting from childhood up to my teenage years, I feared for my father’s wrath whenever he’d come home as my sister would run to him to tell him about our squabbles. Oftentimes for the simple reason that I had talked back to my sister during our petty fights, my penalty would include a severe scolding and at times a slap or a hitting of some kind. I accepted every punishment without question. But secretly my hard feelings had begun to accumulate I contemplated running away from home. Completely sheltered throughout my fledgling years though, I knew it was impossible. There was nowhere to go.

My father repeatedly told us he was old school who had strictly insisted on the value of respect for elders. But sometimes I could sense another reason. Something else that must have been plaguing our relationship with one another from the very start. And that was Favoritism, or to put it more simply, “playing favorites.”

I also remember the shopping episodes that had me tagging along with my family, only to find at the end of the day when we arrived home that my sister had 10 new items or more in her wardrobe and me having only two. I admit to getting hurt I’d end up locking myself in a room crying. Everytime. Both my parents would somehow feel guilty and start consoling me by saying they simply got used to the tradition of hand-me-downs among siblings practiced in their generation. Ergo, they assured me that my sister and I could share things and she could definitely pass them on to me when she has outgrown them.

In all honesty, I was never jealous or envious of my sister being the blessed one because I do like what I have become as a person. For what it’s worth, those painful segments provided me the strength, discipline, self-love and insight I had needed to last this long. These are my kind of gems I won’t trade for anything else in this world.

We just all have our issues with our parents I believe. We’re all flawed as human beings. We can only make mistakes. And my parents unintentionally committed this particular mistake which put a considerable dent on my good memories with them. 

It didn’t take too long for both of them to become finally vocal in their admission to “playing favorites” as soon as they had seen the potentials of my budding sister and what she could clearly bring to the whole family at that time.

Although Dad surely had inadvertent ways of making me feel non-existent, I’ve got to admit I’m not the one he had given the least attention to. It’s my brother. My younger brother who I’m sure has his own story to tell. Dad made no secret of the fact that he prefers daughters. In turn, my brother has become the dearest child to my Mom’s heart.

In spite of everything, my strong connection to my father couldn’t be denied. I have no doubt of his love for me as one of his daughters.  He’d claim I’m the child who resembled him the most both in character and looks.  Pronouncements as such never failed to make me jubilant and proud. Indeed he was my rock and had been the center of my universe.

Although Dad was never a good husband to my Mom, he’d always been responsible and a good provider to us. I recall him coming home at night, only to leave as early as 4:00 a.m. to go jogging in the park and thereafter proceeding to work on his two jobs. Sometimes we’d see him only once a week or once in two weeks. We’ve always been aware of his first family so this was no puzzle to us at all.

I can categorically claim that both my parents didn’t put much effort in hiding their preferences and partiality in dealing with their kids. It’s as if they didn’t put considerable thought on whatever repercussions it could bring to their affected youngsters then.

Do I resent my parents for this? It’s hypocritical to deny it as I still got a few emotional scars from the ramifications brought about by their open display of partiality. I felt it had somehow robbed me of a better sense of my fragile teen-age self.

My fate had provided me with only one child. There’s no way I can ever test myself with the same challenge of having more than one kid without giving in to the appalling temptation of favoritism.

Even if my son has continuously shown me unmitigated love, I’m aware he’s got issues with me and harbors some resentments with regards to my shortcomings as his only parent. It breaks my heart knowing I could have been the very best mom my son could ever have when he only has me in his life and yet I failed. What’s more, I’ve committed some grave mistakes as a parent I’ll be too mortified to confess here. My only salvation I guess can only come from my never-ending petition for my son’s forgiveness.

A kind of apology I know neither of my parents would be willing to ask from me.

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6 thoughts on “The Middle Child and the Intricacies of Favoritism in Family Bonds

  1. Your willingness to acknowledge your feelings about your upbringing, as well as your own perceptions of how you came to be the person that you are today, (which is a really great person by the way) shows that you have achieved an understanding which is not just a benefit to you, but also to your son, and to all those who care about you.

    Overcoming the limitations and challenges of our childhood experiences, and becoming a really great person in spite of those challenges, is an inspiration to OUR children, and your son is a very fortunate young man to have you as his mom.

    Your life is only just beginning to get interesting, Marjorie, and there is much more beauty and happiness ahead for you. Embrace what you have learned from your experiences, but look forward to your life as it continues to expand and flourish. The best is yet to come…always.

    Warm regards……John H.

    • Thanks, John. If there’s anything I’d like my readers to take away from this blog, especially the young ones who’ll be having kids in the future, it’s the significant ramifications of “playing favorites” which is no laughing matter. What’s mystifying to me now is it seems to run in our family as I watch helplessly a nephew of mine skirt the same plight. I tried to talk to his parent but my said sibling just couldn’t help it. It’s so sad.

      Like my father, I’ve always been a responsible parent to my kid and God knows how I tried to be the best mom he could possibly have. Sometimes though when I look back, I wish I had done more for him and could edit the tough times we went through.

      I do look forward to the beauty and happiness ahead of me. I actually had figured that out by simplifying my life and banishing the complications of certain emotions that might get in the way. Funny that something always comes up to entangle my heart and I still get hurt in the end.
      I guess I should pack up and go live solitarily in the highest mountains or a deep cave where nobody can get to me. 🙂

      • This world of ours needs you to be in it, Marjorie, and even if you hid yourself far away from the rest of the world, those emotions would eventually find you anyway, because the complications you speak of are not a result of something or someone outside of you. The thoughts, words, and actions of others can have a good effect on us if we see the good and embrace it, or they can have a bad effect if they intend it to be bad, but only if we do not defend ourselves against it.

        Your heart and your mind and your soul are entangled with all life on earth, particularly with your fellow human beings, and most of them are basically good, and most of those good ones are aware that all life is entangled. We all need time to ourselves, and to spend some time in solitude to center ourselves and refresh our spirits, and perhaps you should attend to yourself more often that way.

        You are also NOT hurt by forces outside of yourself. People can do or say hurtful things, and playing favorites with our children can be hurtful, but at some point, when we grow up, we have to take responsibility for our own feelings, and not allow anyone to have such power over us. When we are confident in our self-worth and value ourselves appropriately, no one has the ability to easily hurt us. We are not super-humans, of course, and circumstances can overwhelm us at times, but rather than withdraw from the world and deprive the whole world of our contributions, it is more beneficial to others and to ourselves if we participate in making those contributions. If we all contribute something to the betterment of the world, it will become a better place for our children and their children.

        This world is a much better place because you are in it, and I prefer a world with you in it.

        Warm regards…….John H.

        Life can be complicated, that is certainly true,

  2. You have a way of describing your raw emotions in such an open and honest manner that it feels good to read about them, even though some of the experiences were painful for you. I think that’s because as you’re telling your individual story, you’re also telling a more universal story, as well. One of your great gifts is your ability to see what’s going on. In any group, there always has to be someone who stands back a little, keeps quiet, and watches — and tries to figure things out. I don’t know you that well, but I have a feeling you’re one of those people. And if you’ve made mistakes as a parent, that’s an unavoidable part of the job. The fact that you’re aware of yours just means that, again, you stand out from the crowd. If your son doesn’t appreciate you now, he will someday.

    • Yes, Charles, I am one of the people you just described. I’m usually the girl in the corner who won’t speak unless asked or unless it’s necessary. The one who never had much to say but is constantly turning something over in her mind.

      My relationship with my son can’t be considered flawless but still, I feel abundantly blessed by his love that has spectacularly sustained me all this time.

      Putting our essences out here can be awkward and at times discomforting but I’d like to believe the benefits to both the blogger and the readers in the long run outweigh the impairments the exposure might have caused.

      P.S. Pls. pardon me for occasional delay in responding. I slept early last night and eight-to- five job got in the way. I look forward eagerly to your comments as well although I understand your circumstances are more challenging given your fame and the thousands of followers under your belt. Warmest Regards..

  3. Life does load us down with a great deal of baggage, doesn’t it. Perhaps the trick is to keep traveling and hope that the airline loses some of it for you…. (Oh, if only it were that easy!)

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