not pictured, fifth child who was too young and wobbly to pose on dock
Every so often, one of the kids asks me "Who is your favorite?", or they'll accuse me of having a favorite over them (usually happens when I let one of them get a Venti Caramel Cone Frappucino *no coffee* but yes whipped cream on a Target run but didn't bring one home for EVERYONE). I've even had other people ask me if I have a "favorite" child, and let's face it, with five I have a bunch to choose from. But I always tell the kids the same thing: My favorite is the one who goes to bed the earliest. JUST KIDDING (usually)...
Whenever I think of playing favorites, I think back to when I was pregnant with my second child. I would wonder to myself how could I ever love another child as much as I love my first child?! It seemed overwhelming how much I loved my first born and how attached I was to him. The idea of having another little new person to love both thrilled me and scared me. I didn't want to have either of them feel less loved because there were two now, and I had this completely backward notion that my love was already a whole, being divided up amongst them. I felt like my love had a cap, a limit, and that it somehow couldn't be exceeded, but that I would love them both "the same".
When Leven was born (ps Leven means "life" in Dutch, I get asked about her name almost every other day it seems, so there you go) I realized how limitless that love is, that rather than being divided it doubles on itself, that it can expand and grow and develop and go on forever to be shared however many times it needed to be.
All that being said, my love for all my kids isn't the "same". I don't love them all "equally". It seems silly and almost cheapens it in a way to put that kind of label on it. How could I love five different people all the same exact way? Differently doesn't mean more or less, it means just what it is, differently. I love them all for their different-ness. Plus, measuring amounts of love like it was cups of flour for a recipe seems ridiculous. You don't love something just a little bit, once it's love, it's all love.
But for the kids, I tell them this. Your love is like a key, that opens up a part of my heart and a part of my soul that wasn't open before, and your love occupies that space and always will, that will never change. Only you could open that for me, no one else. And even better, having those pathways opened up for me has made me a better person, and a better mother, just a better human all around. As parents we get to shape these children, but we rarely realize how much they are also shaping us. How much bigger my heart is, and my soul is, because of this big family.