“I like Dad better than you,” my son says conversationally, never looking up from his breakfast.
“Yeah. He takes me to the bike park and he likes to wrestle and I like him better.”
I stand in the kitchen, silent. Thinking.
After a minute I respond. “You are so loved and cared for that it’s just a part of your life. You don’t even notice when it’s happening. Because buddy, I take care of you all day long, every single day of your life.” I realize I’m not angry or upset. I already knew I wasn’t the favorite.
True to his nature, he took his task very seriously. A heart for pouring his drink. One more when I located a missing Lego. By 9:30, the page was already full, and it worked. That day, he was more grateful for his mom.
But in general, I am not his favorite.
I make him finish his math assignment and rewrite his copy work when he gets in too big of a hurry. I am the one telling him to put away his shoes, plate, laundry. Brush his teeth, be kind, have self control. I am the mom.
I am not the favorite because I make him do the things that aren’t fun. But I know I’m a good mom. I know just how to make my hot-tempered child laugh, diffusing a fiery moment, and help my introverted child find the time alone he needs, even in a full house. The homemade muffin he’s eating for breakfast has extra Greek yogurt to keep his blood sugar even throughout the morning. Shoes and jackets that fit, someone to lean against when he’s hurt or embarrassed, check-ups and dentists and shirts from the one store he likes best.
He doesn’t notice these things because they are just the stuff of his daily life. Love is so woven into every detail of his day that he can’t conceive of a life outside of it. It never occurs to him to be thankful because he doesn’t realize a childhood could be any other way.
And that is just how it should be.
I’m not the favorite, but mothering is about so much more than recognition. It is my way of living out my faith. The details that nourish my children’s bodies and soul are my very best reflection of the image of God. And if I am willing to see it, they are my best chance to recognize the traces of love in my own life, the tiny graces that fill my own days with ease and depth.
I spend my life nurturing my children, and I hope that daily, consistent nourishment will give them a framework for relating to a loving God in the future. They will understand love because it was their first experience, the groundwork for all others.
And that means more than any heart my son could draw.