I have two kids. Could I pick a favorite? You bet I could! But my answer would change from day to day, moment to moment. Both of my kids are ridiculously fun in their own way, and each also has a unique way of making me want to hide in the bathroom with a box or two of Thin Mints.
Having one child is a gift. Having more than one child is even giftier (see what I did there?) because that is how God shows you just how little control you have over what they do or say, over how they interpret what you tell them, over how closely they’re paying attention when you think they aren’t. I’m pretty sure that if I only had one child, I would be patting myself on the back way too often for what that child did well, and beating myself up even more often when things went sideways.
Because I have one child with Autism (Richie) and one who is neurotypical (Jillian), the differences between the two are even more pronounced. And I find that when I have alone time with either of them, they are, in that moment, my favorite child. Perhaps because I have such a low tolerance for chaos, I seem to be best when I’m with my kids one-on-one. That’s when I’m best able to be in the moment with them, ignore the distractions, and appreciate them for being just who they are.
A few days ago, I picked up my daughter from school, and we had a very real and touching conversation in the van on the drive home. When we pulled into the garage, I looked her in the eye and told her sincerely, “I think you are the best kid in the whole world.” She immediately hugged me across the center console and whispered warmly in my ear that I am the best mom in the whole world (which, of course, I am). Best garage moment ever.
A few days afterwards, without intending to, I said the exact same thing to my son. Jillian had already left for middle school, so Richie and I were alone eating breakfast. We were discussing the newest villain he’d invented (a giant skeleton that throws skulls at the good guys). When we talk about things like this, I can’t help but remember him as the 3-year-old who had no words of his own but would endlessly repeat dialogue from television shows. The 4-year-old who was so afraid of other little kids he could barely function in his preschool class. The 5-year-old who had to be taught how to tell the difference between a man and a woman, and how to use the correct pronouns for each. I get so overwhelmed at how hard he’s worked and the progress he’s made. At that moment, I couldn’t help but put my arm around him, pull him to me, and tell him, “I think you are the best kid in the whole world.”
I looked at him for his reaction to my heartfelt words. He looked me in the eye, nodded slightly, and said, “Yes.”