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I was the least favorite grandchild and that casts a shadow over my entire life.

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I was the least favorite grandchild and that casts a shadow over my entire life.

Some of my earliest (and happiest) memories are of time spent with my paternal grandmother.

For the first five years of my life, I was the proverbial apple of his eye. Every photo of her seemed to show Grandma kissing me and I would run to her to hug her.

He even gave me the nickname Sonu, which means gold in Hindi. And like gold, it shone in the light of his unconditional love. Then suddenly the light went out.

My youngest cousin was born and, it seems, overnight my grandmother very publicly transferred her attentions, even giving her that precious nickname.

I was devastated. When he was five, he didn’t understand how his feelings could change so dramatically (to be honest, I still don’t) and he left me wondering what I had done wrong.

Today I am 36 years old and I am a manifestation life coach. To the outside world, I live a lovely life in the Cotswolds with my partner and our French bulldog. But inside, the pain he caused me is still with me.

That’s why I was horrified when Emma Parsons-Reid announced to the world in last week’s Femail magazine that she has a favorite grandchild and, what’s more, her four other grandchildren know it.

I am not alone. One of the hundreds of people who commented on Emma’s article noted: “Having not been the ‘favorite’ child or grandchild, I know how cruel and cruel it is to show this and, yes, we often feel it quite acutely.” I would go even further; that kind of favoritism leaves a lifelong scar on your psyche.

“With my friends and my partner I can be needy and constantly seek their approval,” writes Sonali Saujani. “You don’t need Freud to trace everything back to grandmother.”

Throughout my life I have suffered from anxiety, low self-esteem, and rebelled to get attention. My biggest fear is that no one loves me and no one loves me.

My first marriage was to someone totally inappropriate (a “bad boy”), and I now believe it was motivated in part by a simple desire for attention.

Even today with my friends and my partner I can appear needy and constantly seek their approval. I hate myself for behaving this way, and yet there’s no need for Freud to trace it all the way back to my grandmother.

My dad’s mother was the matriarch, she was very in charge. She was the kind of person you would turn to if something terrible happened. Nothing fazed her.

She was also, in practice, the only grandmother he had. My maternal grandmother lived in another country and both of my grandparents died before I was born.

But since Grandma lived nearby with my uncle, she was a constant presence in my life. I am an only child. Although I was ultimately conceived naturally, my parents (my father was an accountant and my mother worked for his company) had already spent ten years trying to start a family.

I never had the chance to ask him why he had rejected me.

When I was born, Grandma moved there for six weeks to help me. She already had six other grandchildren and there was a five-year age difference between the youngest of them and me. For five years, I had her full attention.

Then my cousin, daughter of the uncle with whom the grandmother lived, arrived and everything changed. I must make it clear that I have never held a grudge against my cousin, who is now 30 years old and a successful lawyer.

When she was a baby she was indescribably cute and even I loved to hug her. But when Grandma gave her my nickname and she started calling me by my full name, she broke my heart.

Even mom was upset at the blatant degradation and although she still called me Sonu, grandma corrected her.

My little cousin was quickly followed by a younger brother and it was as if I no longer existed. I felt pushed to the bottom of the grandkid pecking order. If I doubt my memories, I just have to look at photos of family functions. In any group photo of Grandma with her grandchildren, I am the one firmly apart from her.

Grandma also regularly began to scold my mother for spoiling me, and once told her not to dress me in pretty dresses because it would attract attention.

I even found Mom crying because Grandma had scolded her for worrying about my food and sitting with me to make sure I ate everything. Apparently, they should have left me to my own devices.

As for spending quality time together, it never happened again. Grandmas took their friends to the stores or to buy candy, I didn’t.

Then, when I was 12, Grandma had an accident and was paralyzed from the waist down.

When my uncle and his family were away, dad or his other siblings would stay with her. I dreaded those visits because when it was our turn I had to listen to her tell story after story about how amazing my younger cousins ​​were, making me feel worthless.

It didn’t help that school was hard for me. I was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia, but not performing well in class only underscored why I felt like I didn’t deserve to be loved by her.

Grandma died just before I turned 16 and in my culture you can’t have big celebrations for the next 12 months. I blamed her for holding back the day when I would have been the center of attention.

It also meant that I never had the chance to ask her why she had ‘rejected’ me, or to forge a relationship with her as an adult, one that could have been different.

Unfortunately, even though Grandma was no longer in my life, my feelings of inadequacy did not go away. In my adolescence I began to rebel. I was the girl that everyone asked, ‘What has she done now?!’

On one memorable occasion, I had a three-figure phone bill. When I was 18 I wanted to get a tattoo. Unheard of in my family!

When I was 19, I met my ex-husband, who was totally inadequate: sneaky, rude and often disrespectful, but we were together for ten years before I ended it, believing it was all I deserved.

Throughout my 20s, at my father’s urging, I reluctantly attended family gatherings. But I didn’t talk to anyone. They were all supremely successful, and my self-esteem was so low that I convinced myself that no one was interested in anything I had to say. Mum had always been my unwavering support on these occasions, and when she died in 2019, I made the decision to move away from my family in London to live in the Cotswolds.

His death also rekindled feelings of abandonment and that no one cared about me.

Four years later, I finally began to address those feelings and heal them thanks to my loving partner, who I met online three years ago.

I can see now that whatever problems Grandma had reflected her shortcomings, not mine. As a result, I’ve become a little closer to some of my family members.

Although I would like to have two or three children, I have made my opinion very clear about favoritism. As a mother, I will make sure they are loved equally.

My partner’s mother has three children and is my role model because she makes them all feel special, loved equally and never favors any of them.

And my dad, although he says he would like me to have a son, knows that I will not accept him favoring future grandchildren.

I think there will always be a part of me that will be a rejected five-year-old.

But now I know that that girl is not to blame and I wish I could give her a hug and say: ‘It was never your fault that Grandma loved you less.’

  • As told to Samantha Brick

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