When You Know You’re A Little Less Loved

Trash that, I’ve known it for a long while. As I sit on a red wooden chair with my beloved Luke (he’s an ukulele, silly!) on my lap at 2 am in the morning, I’ll tell a story that will hit home to majority of those born in multiple-children families.

Excuse me, I just went to fish out an outdated copy of Time with an article on well, you guessed it, favouritism.

Here’s a little introduction to my what?!-there-are-four-kids?! family*.

  1. The Father aka Daddy – A logical and serious man who’s a genius in all things mathematical. Sometimes funny, he thinks kids these days have too good a life.
  2. The Mother aka Mummy – A good-natured woman who loves anything food-related. Probably the only mum around who lets her children eat chocolate ice-cream when they’re ill.
  3. The Big Sister aka Me – Oh, you know me quite well. The strange and quiet one with huge, impossible dreams.
  4. The Second Sister aka My Baby Sister – The originally funny one who turned sullen some time in secondary school. Currently studying in one of the best schools in the country.
  5. The Brother aka Mama’s Boy – The only boy amongst the kids. Proudly claimed (by my grandmother herself) to be the most handsome out of the many grandsons my late grandmother had.
  6. The Youngest Sister aka Papa’s Girl – Fierce and outspoken, she scolded one of our uncles and disallowed him from eating her birthday cake when she was 3 when he didn’t know how to sing the “Happy Birthday” song. Pretty and talented as well.

“My dear brother, you wound me. You know how much I love my family.” – Tyrion Lannister (George R. R. Martin) in A Game of Thrones. I do love my family, but some things tend to not happen in my favour. I’m feeling a slight guilt as I’m tapping away…

A thousand years ago, I was busy sponging the dishes with soap when I found a plate which was not supposed to be under my care. The bright red fruits on the rim gave it away to belong to the littlest one. Our family has a little policy about dishes. Everyone washes his or her own plate, with the exception of my parents and I. I’m in charge of the “general” utensils. Given that Chinese cooking comes in a variety of dishes (vegetables, fish, tofu, etc. all in separate plates), a huge meal may mean half an hour at the sink. Slightly miffed that I had missed out that plate, I called loudly to my sister, who was doing something in her room.

“WAIT! I KNOW!” she shouted back, unwilling. She had dumped the plate in the sink earlier to catch a movie on TV.

I waited.

Itching to rid my hands of detergent, I called out again. I got the exact same reply with a bigger dose of resentment.

Our not-so soft exchange had attracted the attention of my father, who was busy browsing the web for the latest Olympics news.

“Just wash it for her,” he told me gently.

Fine. There was no use arguing. He would tell me that as the eldest child, I was supposed to be more caring toward my siblings and more tolerant towards their annoying behaviour. I was sure that if the roles were reversed, she would have mumbled and grumbled and my father would order me to wash it up immediately.

I wouldn’t have minded if this happened only once. Thing is, my sister is not exactly the nicest girl in the world and with her very important primary school exams coming up, she has had the excuse to get away with screaming and shouting at every member of the family. Yes, even my dad, who would ignore me for weeks if I did the same.

Grumbling in my head, I scrubbed away.

When the sink was cleared, I pulled down the rag and proceeded silently to wipe off the drips of gravy on the placemats and dining table. While I was at it, my brother, who was concentrating hard on getting to the next level of his mobile phone game, said in mild irritation, “Oi! Who’s shaking the table?”

That was it. I lashed out at him, furious. He has the least bit of knowledge on how to wipe a table. All he knows is to sit down and play games.

A few moments later, my dad, who had migrated to the couch in the living room, shouted at me for leaving Luke lying on it.

I went out for a jog at 11.30 pm.

Many will disagree with me on this ultra-sensitive topic. No one will admit showing favouritism among their kids. However, it has been proven (aha!) that all parents do have a favourite child. You can deny, but your children will know. I’ve known it since my younger siblings were no older than a few months old.

Mum does favour my little brother, whom I love dearly, but dislike for his laziness and feelings of superiority. Also his huge pride, which irks me sometimes. She brings her little boy out for his favourite fast food meals and buys him lots of cookies. Dad, on the other hand, loves my youngest sister a little more than the rest of us. The main reason would be that she makes him laugh with her quick and witty comments. She also has a wicked talent for drawing and is in the midst of an application to the one and only arts school in the country. I don’t like that she shouts at me and calls me a *censored*. The ironic thing about this is that their least favourite child is the one favoured by the other. I’ve been playing the silent observer for years and yes, they both call each other “Mama’s boy” or “Daddy’s girl” when they’re quarreling, which happens all the time.

The effects of favouritism are more evident as we grow up. I’ve observed my 2 youngest siblings to have a higher self-esteem than my second sister and I. Both of us have been sort of overlooked for at least 12 years now and we’re faring quite badly in huge social situations. Nonetheless, we’re the closest pair out of all our siblings, though she’s been seeking the love and attention she doesn’t get at home from her friends (she’s away at boarding now). I turn to my books, magazines and this blog, which I’ve grown to love like a real child (and believe to love me back… *groan*).

I don’t mean that being unfavoured is bad too. It is a good thing in a way because you grow up real quickly (Dad started shouting at me to grow up when I was 12). My sister became more reserved when she realized that people were not going to pay special attention to her forever. I think I’ve grown to be more self-reliant because I know that help won’t come to me whenever I need it. I know my brother will have independence issues when he needs to leave home and my sister might just be hurt when she realizes that she’s not that special anymore. The drawbacks are that we have lower self-esteem and I think I do feel depressed at times over nothing. We are less appreciated in a way, because the expectations are set so high for us. It’s so much harder to please our parents.

Just recently, I received a scholarship from my school, which helped offset a semester’s worth of school fees. It mattered a lot to me because Dad could work less this half-year and be less cranky after work. Mum and Dad both attended the ceremony and I know Dad was happy because he wore a new shirt (now that doesn’t happen often!), but I also know that he had expected it of me. Mum was the visibly happier one. My younger siblings have not been putting in as much effort in school, so whenever an A appears in their report books, they’re rewarded tremendously (think mobile phones, expensive toys) for their efforts. I’m still reeling from that one B3 and 2 A2s I got for my ‘O’ levels two years ago, which I know disappointed my father. I can only imagine how I’ll make him feel worse when I tell him I’m not intending to get a degree in science anymore.

I’ve always dreamed of getting my own place so I won’t have to bear with the differential treatment anymore. Unfortunately, this will never happen until I get married or turn 35, whichever comes first, due to the strict government policy on property ownership. Darn.

There is absolutely nothing I can do to change my parents’ minds because it is a fact that my younger siblings have been blessed with better looks and more talent than my other sister and I. I’m just waiting for my big break in life, whatever that is, to make myself and my non-living babies (this blog and my books) truly proud.

This has been a ridiculously long post. Forgive me, for I had to ramble on and on to keep myself sane.

What about you? Are you the favoured or unfavoured child? Do share your thoughts below!

*Note: Four kids is a lot in my country where the average number of kids born to women hovers at around 2 to 2.2.

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