Squish is fearless and somewhat impulsive. He often bites off more than he can chew, literally and figuratively, and tends to dive in with both feet.

Manchild is cautious and careful. He thinks a lot, talks a lot, and has a mind that can go anywhere.

They both drive me nuts. I’m crazy about both of them. And if you were to ask me if I have a favorite, I would probably say, “It depends on the minute.”

They are so different from each other — in age, in stages of development, in their need for me, in their personalities. How can I say I love my children the same? How can I pick a favorite? How could I even quantify my love?

The cover story of this week’s TIME Magazine says there is a science to parental favoritism. Granted, I haven’t read the article (darn those pay walls!) but the story’s very existence has got me thinking about favoritism and love and who I like best.

But, like I said, it changes by the minute.

I like Manchild best when he asks me to come cuddle on the couch. I like him best when he walks everywhere with me, even when he’s tired and his brother is reclining in the stroller. I like him best when he tells me fantastical stories, full of superlatives and explosions. I like him best when he sits silently and plays with his toys or reads his books.

I like Squish best when he sings his non-sensical songs and jumps joyfully around on the rug. I like him best when falls on his face (as he so often does) and comes running to me for comfort. I like him best when he says, “Thank you,” every time I give him a cracker. I like him best when he brings me a stack of books to read and then settles quietly in my lap.

But I love them both the same. I love more than I can express, and probably more than I am even able to realize. It always surprises me when that “motherly love” sneaks up on me and I am suddenly standing on the edge of a chasm, the bottom of which I cannot see, the other side is out of sight. My heart aches at the enormity of the feelings and responsibilities and emotions these two little boys provoke in me.

I cannot love one more than the other when there is no way to measure the love that is there. I cannot love one more than the other when there are so many different ways to show love and to need love and my boys are different in what they need and what I show.

My hope is that, if I ever do have a favorite (my boys are so young that it is much too soon to be picking the best and the brightest), no one would ever know. I hope I will be able to love and appreciate each of my children for their own traits and in their own particular ways, that my love will adapt to their circumstances — always present, always true, but flexible and accommodating.

One of my mother-mentor heroes told me one time that she doesn’t have favorites — she loves each of her six children the same. But sometimes one of them needs more attention than the others and that one becomes her “favorite” for a time, until she is no longer needed as much, until someone else needs her more. That, I believe, is the best a mom can do in loving her children and what I hope I can be.

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