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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Solitude On My Own Terms

Warm on the heels of famous women and their recent breakdowns, Demi  and Heather were the “It” girls of my generation who were both destined to become eternally cute and popular. Having been casualties of humiliating divorces, they’re also now both enduring the ruthless passage of time. Recently pegged as poor little rich women who’ve somehow lost their way, many have slammed them for being spoiled by their wealth and fame that they couldn’t deal with their current mid-life crisis like the rest of us.

How good can people get sometimes at creating a smokescreen that obscures their true feelings and plights?

The inclination of these hapless celebrities to succumb to drugs and alcohol has puzzled me for too long. What really drives them to give in to such pernicious temptations? Has their pain become unbearable, resulting to their inevitable free fall into the abyss that culminated in their self-destruction?

I’m in no position to cast stones at anyone this time as I have a gentle understanding of what these people have gone through. Melodramatic as it may sound, I too know what real pain feels like. The sickening ache that I’m sure can overwhelm even the strongest of hearts. How many times have I skirted on the very edges of despair when this soul of mine felt like crying out loud in the rain?

More than I’m willing to admit, I guess.

I don’t remember ever inviting drama into my life and yet it has come like a cat that has sprung unbidden onto my lap. Then there had been moments when certain kinds of melancholy or some sense of emptiness would creep in like a mysterious stranger in the middle of the night, and the only sensible way out was for me to relearn how to sail through the rough seas.

Growing up and even now that I’m an adult, I’ve always felt like an outcast. Exactly much the same as the eternal wallflower that prides itself on contemplating the paradigms of its existence, while possessing a pleasant awareness of an alternative route to an imagined realm at liberty from all things mundane.

Music, movies, literature, art, nature… They’re the outlines that characterize the wonderful breadth of my solitary world. The best friends I’ve had for so long. Even the stark beauty I find in the heart of loneliness has not shown any signs of fading.

Alone with my thoughts, I could conjure up happiness every now and then, muse on some lonesome episodes from my past, and in all its glory bring back the dead and gone..

Worlds might have come crashing down and prayers remained unanswered. I, who have gone off the deep end in certain unrelenting personal winters of my life, am still determined to tough it out.

As we’ve no choice but to soldier on.

I remember how my father, who had sensed my predicaments in his earlier ailing years, had told me these exact words with a smile, “Even if I want to, I can’t get too worried about you. You’re the true-blooded daughter of mine who can easily discern the correct path and decide on the right thing to do. You’ve always been strong.”

Oh dear father… if you only knew…