Sunday, July 12, 2015

Not Just in for a Trim: How Getting a Haircut Led to Discussion of Picking Favorites, Sibling Rivalry, and Adoption

Yesterday I got my hair cut by someone I have gone to for several years.  I usually share some recent stories from working with children to amuse her while she’s clipping and snipping.  That’s how we got on the subject of whether or not parents (and this nanny) have favorites. 

Do I have favorites?

She asked me who I would select if I had to choose one child out of all of the ones I have taken care of who I would take home to raise.  The idea baffled me.  Each time I have taken care of children for a large chunk of time each week over a period of several months or even years, I become very attached to them, and I reach a point at which I no longer adequately describe or quantify my love for them.  The connection continues to grow and deepen the longer I’m taking care of and in contact with them.  

There is one cutie in particular that I’ve taken care of for the longest amount of time (in addition to my youngest sister) who came to mind.  However, if anything were ever to happen to her parents (Lord God Almighty, please forbid it!), I sincerely hope all family members and close friends would do everything in their power to make sure the three silly sisters would still grow up together in the same household, wherever and with whomever that might be.

Years, even decades, after children have been in my care on a regular basis, I still think of them often and pray for them.  Fond memories and stories surface pretty much daily sparked by things that the children I’m currently taking care of, tutoring, mentoring, and/or teaching say or do.  I’ve written about these fond flashbacks throughout the series of blog posts I’ve done called My Nanny Diary.

Do grandparents and parents have favorites?

I recounted to my favorite hairdresser a discussion I had months ago with my dear friend and spiritual director regarding favorites in families.  I told her that knowing there is nothing I could ever do that would bring my mom as much joy as she takes in having a grandchild can sometimes weigh very heavily on me.  This isn’t because my mom’s love for her three daughters, two sons-in-law, and other family members has dried up.  It’s as strong as ever!  Her utmost enjoyment and delight in spending time with her grandson is as it should be.      

I feel frustrated and guilty that there is still a part of me that screams out: “I can’t compete with that!”  Why do I feel so discouraged that nothing I have done or will likely be able to do would ever bring my mom the same level of excitement, sheer pleasure, admiration, or attention?  To me, genuine love wants what is ultimately best, most joyful, and fulfilling for the other person, regardless if I’m a part of that or not.    

When honest with my spiritual director about the thoughts and feelings I’d been having, she asked me if I think that my mom loves my sister more because she has given her a grandson.  I wasn’t sure how to answer, so my friend explained how she loves both of her own daughters beyond measure.  Both of them are happily married, and one of the couples has two daughters of their own.  They are very different people, so her relationship with each of them is unique, but she was clear about how her love for them isn’t increased or diminished based on whether or not they have kids.  I could accept that was true for her and see how my mom likely feels the same way. 

This led us to a discussion of whether some parents have favorites among siblings.  Again, I emphasized that usually, from what I’ve observed and experienced, parents love each of their children so much that, though, one might be easier to handle or be around at times, that the amount of love for one child doesn’t surpass the affection and compassion for another.    

Baby in a Basket

We’d talked enough over the years that I knew my hairdresser had been adopted.  I didn’t recall the circumstances surrounding her adoption, though.  I was horrified when she told me the details related to her story.  She was left on a doorstep as a baby.  What’s worse is that she never really felt accepted or liked by the other children in the family that took her in.  How awful to go through life not feeling wanted by anyone!  She said that she hasn’t kept in touch with any of them. 

“Have you ever tried to find your real parents?” I asked, cautiously.

“No.  And I wouldn’t want to know who they are,” was her abrupt response.

What would you do?

I stayed pretty quiet after that.  I mostly prayed silently that God would somehow let her know that she is dearly loved and allow her to experience that depth of love that seems to have been missing from her life for a long time.  She’s single.  No family of her own or relatives she keeps in contact with.  She does have some friends she’s told me about that she’ll go on short trips with now and again. 

Hearing more about her reality and life has affected me.  It's made me want to do something to let her know that her life matters and that people do care.  Maybe I’ll write her a note and drop it off to let her know she will be in my prayers.  Presence and prayers are pretty much what I can offer at this point.  Who knows?  Maybe that’s enough.  
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