‘Mum told me that I'm her favourite child - my sister was right all along'
My phone beeps as a text from Mum arrives. ‘Fancy going shopping on Saturday? PS. Do you mind if we don’t invite your sister?’
Another day, another example of my mother shamelessly revealing her favouritism for me. And believe me, I’d much rather she didn’t - because it’s not easy being the favourite child.
There are nearly three years between my older sister Emma* and myself, and in my eyes she is far more lovable than I am. While she is shy, I can be quite outspoken. She’s not particularly career-minded, while I am. But it’s these characteristics that seem to have turned me into the favourite child for my ambitious and vocal mother.
'It was a big part of the reason Emma and I weren’t very close growing up'
Looking back, this ‘number one’ status was probably always there. In most childhood photos, I’m being cuddled by Mum with a grumpy-looking Emma standing next to us. As a teenager, Emma wasn’t allowed to have boys over, was banned from going to most of her friends’ parties in case there was alcohol, and furiously rowed with our parents.
By the time I was old enough to want to do the same things, they simply let me. While I viewed this as them not wanting another endless round of teen arguments, my sister would hiss that I was their ‘golden child’. Quite frankly, listening to the things she screamed at them, I wouldn’t have blamed them.
They were fair in other ways: at Christmas and birthdays we’d get presents of the same value and our parents would take equal interest in our homework and school reports. They seemed equally sad when we each moved away from home.
Yet, in hindsight, I can see it was a big part of the reason Emma and I weren’t very close growing up, and the distance between us grew. We never had sisterly chats about boys or shared moans about our parents. Perhaps she felt she was being excluded, so just shut me out.
In fact, it wasn’t until we were adults that Mum finally showed her hand. At a lunch to celebrate my engagement five years ago – and after far too much Champagne – she gave me a hug and whispered, ‘You know you’re my favourite, don’t you?’ I was shocked and told her she shouldn’t say things like that.
I felt completely disloyal to my sister and also annoyed at Mum for being so, well, un-motherly.
I told my fiancé and he advised me to forget it, but it marked a turning point. Since that lunch she has gradually stepped up her favouritism. My wedding gift was a beautiful picture that my sister and I both loved; I was mortified. Mum has told me that she is leaving me her favourite diamond ring in her will (my sister loves jewellery whereas I don’t).
And she often asks me to lunch or the theatre – ‘just the two of us’. When I ask Mum why she hasn’t invited Emma, she says that she wouldn’t want to come anyway, or that it wouldn’t be as much fun. And I go along with it. What’s the alternative? Should I tell my sister that she was right all along?
However, with this preferential treatment comes expectations. I have to phone Mum regularly and drop everything if she needs me.
I’ve also become a sounding board for her disintegrating bond with my sister. She’ll tell me how much Emma has upset her or how they don’t have much of a relationship. That’s not to say she doesn’t love Emma – I know she does – but it makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable and sad.
I’ve now got children of my own and I suppose I’ve got Mum to thank for teaching me a valuable lesson: favouritism only ends in tears.
*Names have been changed.