“Mom, who’s your favorite person in this family?” she asked, batting her long lashes at me. After her siblings devolved into a killer argument about stolen Legos, she was feeling pretty confident about her odds for Favorite Kid.
Without pausing for a second, I declared, “Daddy. Daddy is my favorite.”
She gasped, horrified. “You love Daddy more than us?!?”
There’s no backing out now. Might as well double down, I thought. “Absolutely. No question about it. I love you all, tied for second place, but Daddy is definitely first. This whole thing started with him, and it’ll end with him, with a lovely 20-year interlude in the middle where you guys are with us.”
We are halfway through that 20-year interlude and rapidly losing steam, but I’m determined to hang on.
We’ve grown up together, this bearded middle-aged man and I. We met my first semester of college when I picked an argument with him over dinner and we’ve been arguing ever since, in the best of ways, mostly. We’ve sharpened and honed each other into semi-decent adults.
I love our motley crew, all grubby-handed and potty-mouthed, but their Daddy … Daddy is my favorite. We’ve processed our way through heartbreak and upheaval, theological changes and political shifts. Together we’ve built a family out of barrenness and across borders.
He drives me crazy with his strong opinions. Sometimes I want to hear only me talking. Me talking. My opinions are strong enough for the entire tri-county area. I want to make all the choices myself. I want to handle the kids and meet all of their needs. I want to decide everything all the time, because I am so right. I am righter than he is. Sharing power grates at my authoritarian soul. I want to scream, “I know best! Back off! You are the secondary parent and must bow before my ultimate authority!” But I don’t.
Because I need him every second of the day. I am right and know exactly what I’m doing except for all the times I don’t and he swoops in to catch me when I’m falling into despair and I go hide in the bathroom while he takes the wheel in the nick of time before everything goes splat.
When I worry that I don’t have any energy left after dinner and carpool and 57 dentist appointments for three people (one per tooth?), I hear him googling homework help while I scrape chicken bones into the trash.
In the midst of wanting things my way I’m grateful for forging a pathway to ours, to both, to us.
We listen and bend at night after the kids are finally shoved in their sheets, and I’m glad for the fact of him. I’m so glad for this co-parenting, co-habitating, co-opining man who teaches them everything from Playstation to chess. Our ways are different and we’re better for it. I’m grateful for his fathering.
But before he was father, he was my friend, my best friend, and he’s my favorite person in the whole world, even when I’m mad at him.
Marriage is incredibly difficult. Choosing to stay and work it out with the same person day after day, decade after decade. Sometimes I fantasize about running away. Just getting in my car and leaving because I don’t want to face my own issues any longer. Being around someone who knows me so completely, who sees through my bullshit so clearly … it’s exhausting being so known. Sometimes I long for a façade, to fool him into seeing me in a softer light. I want the stranger who is blissfully unaware of my most painful truths.
I want to run away, but where would I go? When your life has been entwined with someone else as long as mine has, all roads lead back to him, back to husband, back to friend, back to home.
When I try to run I run to him.
My daughter wrote me a note for Mother’s Day. She loves me because I make good food and bake brownies.
These are lies. My food is marginal and cooking it is one of my least favorite tasks, and she hates brownies. Yet this is how she sees me. Food maker. Need meeter. It’s enough for a seven-year-old.
Her daddy knows me better. He knows I’d rather be moving words around a page than potatoes around a pot. He doesn’t care about my cooking and wants to hear the ideas I have bubbling in my brain.
I love my kids, I value serving my kids, but Daddy is my favorite. He’s my favorite person to spend time with and a safe person to fail in front of.
On a Saturday morning while the kids eat donuts and watch cartoons, we French press coffee and sneak out to the back porch where he hung the twinkle lights for me and we snuggle in blankets and enjoy the quiet togetherness. Our kids smoosh their faces against the glass doors leading out to our getaway spot but we shake our heads and admonish them to go play, go figure it out, go somewhere, go away. This is our time, after a week of working on kids and careers.
I love them dearly, but Daddy is my favorite.
Photo by Emily Gnetz.