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Special treatment

Diterbitkan: Isnin, 24 November 2008 12:00 AM

(Ubah saiz teks)

AS A young girl, it was patently obvious to all who knew my family that my brother was my mother’s favourite child.

Her firstborn child and only son could do no wrong.

Indeed, his five sisters nicknamed him King David because his power and influence over my mother was absolute.

When King David received a new bicycle one Christmas, I (my mother’s second born child) received his old discarded model.

When I grumbled to her about this gross act of seasonal inequality, she brushed my complaint aside by saying: “But he’s a boy!”

Her tone of voice led me to believe that there was huge difference (other than the obvious physical one) between girls and boys – a difference that I had obviously not grasped after nine years of living with my brother.

King David was not a mean person, but the privileges bestowed upon him did evoke some resentment from each of his sisters as soon as they were old enough to notice the imbalance in my mother’s affections.

Although she tried to hide her favouritism at times, we were aware of the extra pocket money that King David received, the excuses that were made for any bad behaviour on his part, and the lack of domestic chores assigned to him.

King David was never forced to help set the dinner table, or placate my youngest sister when her piercing shrieks for attention could not be immediately addressed by my mother, or scoop the poop out of the hutches that housed our ever-expanding family of pet rabbits.

He controlled the television viewing in our house until my father returned home from work.

He always received the better pieces of meat after my father had been served at dinner time.

And he was the only person in the house who had an entire bedroom to himself.

Had I been the favourite child, I’m sure I would have enjoyed everything that my adoring mother chose to give me without thinking too much about the sibling jealousy seething behind the throne.

Had I been the favourite child, I’m sure I would not be the person I am today.

Had I been the favourite child, I’m sure I would have morphed into someone not used to having to fight for anything.

Not that my brother turned out to be a bad sort. Quite the opposite, really.

He is a gentle soul with a huge compassionate heart and generous spirit that belies his childhood years of over-indulgence.

On the other hand, had I been the chosen one, I would probably have a grown up to be a selfish woman with a perpetual air of entitlement; a woman who nags her husband, indulges in hedonistic pursuits and runs home to mother at the first sign of trouble.

When His Royal Highness left home at 16 to attend college, I thought the void left by his departure would be filled by a more equitable distribution of my mother’s affections. After all, my brother had been adored mostly because of his gender.

But before long, there emerged a power struggle of sorts as five sisters vied for the right to ascend the vacated throne.

Or at least, that’s what I thought had happened.

In fact, my mother’s third daughter was the one who emerged as the new favourite, but this wasn’t to replace my brother.

It appears that my mother had had a favourite daughter all along, but we just never saw the signs because most of her focus had been on her only son.

Now, 35 years later, my mother still has two favourite children. She possibly has favourite grandchildren and favourite great-grandchildren too.

But any resentment that I had as a child was left behind as I entered adulthood. If anything, the pecking order of her affections has become something of a family joke.

My mother has no choice as to which of her children she favours more than others.

Sometimes, parents (and I’m sure it happens with fathers too) are more attracted to one child because of number of different reasons: gender, looks, personality, intellect, etc.

Of course, parents do have a choice as to how their preferences are manifested.

As the mother of two children, I can honestly say that I don’t favour one of my children over the other. I love them both unconditionally.

Still, it’s early days yet.

The one who brings me the most chocolate and hooks me up to an intravenous drip that supplies me with a gin and tonic every couple of hours when I’m too old and shaky to lift a glass to my lips, will be the one who wins my vote at the end of the day.