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Playing favorites is not so simple
ALL DEBATES ABOUT who’s the ‘favorite’ aside, there’s no question that Jane adores the members of her animal family, and the feeling is more than mutual. Animals are just a click less complicated than humans- that’s probably why we love them so much.

WEST FORK KICKAPOO - Wise parents know that showing favoritism can be detrimental to their children's emotional and mental well-being, at least for the child that’s not the favorite. Still, it happens. 

Do you have a favorite child? Did your parents have a favorite? Are you anyone’s favorite? When it comes to family favorites, my guess is we all have a story to tell.

My brother, Jack, was obviously Mom’s favorite child. “Jackie this, Jackie that”—there was never a conversation when Mom wasn’t telling me and others how wonderful herJackiewas. It made me want to vomit. But, like a good daughter, I listened and put up with it—usually.

My sister, Jill, was clearly notMom’s favorite. No, no, no, and that made me want to vomit too. But it made me furious more than anything, and later, as my sister became ill with Alzheimer's, it forced me to become more protective of her.

Jack was definitely not Dad’s favorite, and after Dad’s death, Jill often talked about how shehad been his favorite. I’d listen and say nothing, but inside my head, where Jill couldn’t see, I’d be thinking, “No, Iwas Dad’s favorite.”

Dad often took mewith him to the Consumer Beverage store on late Saturday afternoons to return his cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer empties and pick up more. The owner, who had a hook for an arm, would let me take a pretzel rod out of a glass jar. On the way home, Dad would park in the alley by Bartelt’s Bar and tell me to stay put, that he’d be right out. Well, he was never right out, and I’d get scared in that alley, but it was oursecret. Jill never had a clue, nor did Jack; not even Mom knew of Dad's and my many secrets—which, to me, screams favorite!

Dad also never, ever took Jill or Jack to the Silver Dollar Saloon where they served my favorite bar food: 21 shrimp in a basket. Iwas the one Dad brought along.

Dad would get a beer and a shot of whiskey before I’d even started climbing up the mountainous bar stool. He’d order me the 21 shrimp basket and on the sly (only a guess now, in hindsight) ask the bartender to toss in a few extra shrimp. 

Dad was a big tipper, a generous man, and he knew I’d count each one of those shrimp after I’d severed its body from its tail with one bite. Getting extras made me an ecstatic favoritechild, happily sipping her kiddie cocktail, eating her fried shrimp, and never telling anyone we’d gone there.

Jack and Jill never had 24, 26, or even 21 shrimp in a basket!

I don’t mind admitting that my daughter, Jessica, is my favorite. It’s simple when you only have one child. But when we take a closer look at animal-family favorites it’s not so simple.

In the canine category, observing Dane talking to Finnegan and fussing with him so that Finn can tuck up tightly against his body for bedtime, it’s easy to see that Finnegan is his best buddy, hands down. But any one of the three good pups could be a favorite of mine. Uh-oh, that’s not quite true.

Téte, alias Ms. Bark Her Head Off, only has the chance of being my favorite in the evenings. Té needs to be dead tired to earn that title. When she’s all tuckered out, she lies peacefully by my feet and is the very picture of ‘favorite dog.’ 

Ruben, the youngest, seems to get the most of my attention. But anyone could make the case that I take way more photos of Mr. Finn-again, leading you to believe he’smy favorite.

Feline-wise, and there are lots of them here, Lorca is my favorite. I like to carry him in and out of the house like the ginormous baby he is. But you can also catch me sitting in a chair rocking Salvador, holding little Ivan in my arms and telling him what a sweet pea he is, searching for the shy Maurice and making sure he has enough to eat, and caressing Monkey while he sleeps in my lap.

I don’t have a favorite goat, parakeet, goose, or donkey—and, like in Noah’s Ark, I have two of each of those animals. It’s impossible to pick a favorite duck because there are too many to keep track of. But there is only one pig here. Her name is Louisa and she’s my favorite pig of all time.

The answer to whether I’manybody's favorite in this little animal kingdom is clear as I sit here and type. Ruben is standing on his hind legs, his two front paws wrapped around my waist, his head in my lap.

In my human family the answer remains unclear. I know I wasn’t Mom’s favorite, but if Jill sincerely felt she was Dad’s, where does that leave me? A tie?

If so, I’d have to say, “Well played, Dad, bravo,” because isn’t that a sign of wise parenting?