Nanny Admissions: On Playing Favourites

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I was looking after the twins last night and hanging out with SaraBeth and her husband as I was leaving, as usual, when they mentioned that some of their sitters had a favourite twin. I was gobsmacked.

“How can anyone actually pick a favourite twin?” I wanted to know.

“Well, we don’t mind if they have favourites,” replied the twins’ father. “People do, you know.”

“I don’t!” I insisted, and they both smiled a little wryly at me. Of course I must have a favourite twin. Their twins have favourite sitters – Footballer adores me, while Diva could take me or leave me, most days. She adores another girl who has a lovely voice and sings to her all the time, apparently. I have noticed that while I don’t have a trained voice, Diva has warmed up to me now that I’m singing songs to the twins more and more!

But I digress. Anyway, I don’t have favourites, most of the time. I just don’t like playing favourites among the kids I babysit for. Each and every one of them has characteristics that I love and enjoy about them. Each of them has annoying faults, too, but that’s just human beings. We all have awesome and annoying faults and characteristics.

While I don’t play favourites in the traditional sense of favouring one child obviously over another, I’ll admit that there are children I enjoy babysitting for more than others. It’s not about liking them more, it’s about getting along with them better. I looked after a very lovely little baby who was sweet, energetic and intelligent – and screamed at me constantly. Her separation anxiety was awful. She never stopped crying. And I came to dread going over there, not because I didn’t like her as a person, but because the crying was guaranteed to leave me half-deaf and stressed out. I really looked for a way to drop the family, because it was too stressful for me and I didn’t enjoy going to work at all. But did it have to do with the fact that I didn’t like the baby? No. I did like her. I just hated the crying that made it so hard to deal with her.

I measure my life by positive and negative experiences. A balance of them means that I am able to take the negative experiences in stride. For example, Gamer and Puddleduck are kids I love a LOT. But when Gamer, who has ADHD, is having a bad day, it makes it very hard for me to get along with him. Do I like him still? Of course I do – he isn’t his ADHD. But his ADHD sometimes makes it really hard to like him in the moment. And maybe that’s what people mean by playing favourites – it’s not about obviously favouring one kid over another or hating one kid and liking another (at least, it’s never been that way for me), it’s about who you connect with more.

I will say there was one kid that I fully did not like, and I feel bad, because most of it wasn’t his fault. He had severe behavioural problems that just made it really, really hard to get along with him or even like him. When a child is peeing in corners of rooms to be defiant, setting things on fire or pulling a knife on you, it’s very hard to like him. Nevertheless, I did my best with him and I hope he got the help he needed. I used to see glimmers of a personality that I wanted to nurture and get to know – but he held me off so harshly that I was never able to see who he really was. I still feel bad to say that he was the only child I’ve looked after that I’ve never liked.

I come from a family where I am “the black sheep”. My parents definitely get along with my sister better than they do with me. It’s mostly a personality clash, and the fact that I haven’t really taken the path that they hoped I would take. But do they favour my sister over me? No. I think they just understand her better, get along with her more, and are closer to her. She also is closer to them in geographical proximity, and she also sees them and makes more of an effort to see them. “Favouring” goes both ways. Your “favourite” parent also changes over the course of your life. My dad and I have always been closer in personality, but my mother and I got much closer again when I moved out of my house at the age of 19. Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder!

But back to the twins – no, I don’t have a favourite. I will say that Footballer and I normally have more positive experiences, but last night, Diva came crawling up to me with a huge smile and wanted me to pick her up. So, even though traditionally I have felt that I am not HER favourite, she definitely showed that things can change a lot.

What do you think about playing favourites? Do you do it?

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