Jackson Biko considers the problem of the favourite child
I always felt that my brother, my immediate follower, was favoured over me when we were growing up. There was the way our parents were always softer on him. I used to think that it was because he was younger and they were hardening me up, being the first son. But then I realised that he was a golden child, whom they treated with kid gloves: he would lose his shirts and sweaters in high school and Mom would buy replacements without a question.
My kid brother was an A-student through and through, a smart guy who loved books and never caused any trouble. I was an average student, distracted in school, with poor concentration. I spent my holidays listening to Dru-Hill and seducing girls on the estate with big bums. (My success rate was pretty low.)
I was also the one who got into the Guinness Book for trying to steal his father’s car while he slept. I bet, secretly, my parents hoped my brother would become an astronaut and go to the moon and make them proud. Ha! (He turned out very well, but he still didn’t go to the moon, so I win, right?)
When we grew up and were fully adult, we told Mom that we felt that they had favoured my brother. She pretended to look aghast and horrified at the allegation. (Mom was dramatic like hell). She said what all mothers would say: “How can you guys even think that?! I’m hurt! You are all my kids and I loved you equally.”
Then her nose started to expand slowly. Sure, we were all beaten equally. But in the ’90s there was this propaganda parents bandied about that the child who was beaten the more frequently was the one who was the more loved. Unfortunately I was that child, wishing they would beat me less often even if it meant being less loved. Anyway, my Mom continued to insist that she loved the five of us equally. So we asked her if she would slaughter a white virgin lamb and drink its blood to prove it. She didn’t. So you see?
Now, being a father of two makes me wonder if one day I might feel that I loved one of my kids more than the other. Of course there is the soft spot I feel for the girl. When she cries I feel like someone is running a ragged edge of metal against my heart. When the boy cries (and he’s only two years now), I want to tell him: “Oh come on, Kim, be a man!” I mean, that is also love, right?
I hope I never come to prefer one over the other, even secretly. Even if one of them smokes weed, steals my money, joins a weird church or runs away from home. I hope I will be like Jesus, who still goes down on his knees and washes their feet, each one of them. With the same soap.