It’s obvious to anyone who has been reading my work in the last week or so that I have had family relationships on my mind. Mother’s Day can do that to a person. The good news is that the connections in my brain have been fired up, and ideas have been squirting around in there. I have to take advantage of that when it happens, so here goes again!
We have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We have Administrative Professionals Day and Valentine’s Day. We even have Pi Day and International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
I propose that we have a day to honor one of the most unsung and benighted group of humans on the planet: non-favorite children. I would call it “Unappreciated Child’s Day.” Well, why not? If we can have a day in honor of a number that goes on and on until it makes your eyes pop out and another in honor of people who like to talk funny, why not have a day to make offspring who are not cute and whose parents don’t think they’ll ever amount to anything feel better about themselves?
We all know that parents are not supposed to have favorite children. We also know that parents are human, and some of them are going to have favorites, even though they are not supposed to. This usually makes the parent feel guilty, and he or she either tries to hide the favoritism or just won’t admit to it. Neither tactic works very well. Children are like dogs; they’re a lot smarter than we think they are. If Mom or Dad likes Sis or Little Brother the best, the other kid(s) will know it without having to be told anything. Yes, it hurts, and yes, the non-favored one(s) is(are) likely to act out in ways guaranteed to get attention, although not the kind they want.
As a non-favored child, I was something of a legend in my family. My grandmother told me a story of one attention-seeking escapade that backfired on me in a rather theatrical way. I don’t remember this at all, but Grandma, Mom and Dad remembered it.
I was four years old when my sister was born. Until then, I had been an only child and hadn’t even thought of what it would be like not to be an only child. All of a sudden, there was a baby in the family and I wasn’t getting all the attention anymore. In fact, most of the attention was going to my sister and, since I was only four years old, nobody needed or wanted my help or my ideas. I was also expected to stay away from the baby, lest I give her the germs I collected out in the back yard. I decided I was going to get some attention, even if I had to get sick to do it.
One day I got a mosquito bite, which I decided was serious enough to keep me in bed. I flatly refused to get up. I had an itchy bump on my arm, I was dying and nobody believed me. Eventually, my father had enough of this silliness. He pulled the covers and the mattress off the bed and hung them all on the clothesline outside.
Not to be deterred by my father’s mattress-hanging skills, I spent the rest of the day sitting in a chair, staring at my mosquito bite. It didn’t work.
This set the tone for the next fourteen years.
My sister was cute, sweet natured and pretty. I was a homely tomboy who was pathologically shy, with attention problems and a tendency to smart off at the wrong times. My sister always had a close bond with my mother. They were almost bound together soul to soul. My younger brother had a closer relationship with Dad than either of us girls did. I never did figure out into what round hole I was supposed to try to put the square peg that was me.
To get back to the holiday idea, I think it would be fabulous to have “Unappreciated Child’s Day” on the second Saturday of May, just before Mother’s Day. This way, the family would only have to spend one weekend giving presents or taking someone to dinner, and the non-favorite child could get one extra day of the nice kind of attention and maybe one day of not having to hear, “Stop being a smartass,” or “You could do better; you just don’t care.”
It’s worth a try, right?