I come from a family of four boys, who, even as we approach middle age, compete for our mother’s affection. This is a fool’s errand because no matter what we do, Mom would never admit to having a favorite. However, my brothers and I still play the game, which occasionally seems like a race to the bottom.
When I was younger, I figured negative attention might distinguish me from the pack. Once, I enlisted my No. 2 brother in an effort to push No. 3, who was scooting around in a baby walker, down a flight of steps. (Don’t worry, he survived, and went on to get degrees from Notre Dame and Stanford.) On various occasions, I led the charge to make sure babysitting for the Rubino boys qualified for combat pay, and can’t recall a time when my parents left home and didn’t return to find something broken: windows, TVs, noses, dreams of a career in childcare. (Apologies to Sandy, Paula, Brenda, Dawn, Laura—and, Angie, I bet that nose healed up fine.)
In my adult years, I’ve taken a different tack: trying to give Mom something to brag about. As a writer-editor, I thought I might be able to ascend the family pecking order. And when I recently became editor-in-chief of this magazine, I figured the top spot was all but mine.
I was right. We were on the last night of a family vacation in Michigan when I found out about my promotion. I told my folks the good news, and Mom got misty. That night, we drank champagne and celebrated. The whole evening felt a little like a coronation. Plus, no one got pushed down the stairs.
A week after we returned, my mother called, I thought to inquire about my first few days atop the masthead. Instead, she made a surprise announcement: the arrival of my newest “brother,” a puppy named Max. I now receive several communiqués per week—videos and texts—updating me on the progress of his potty training and biting problem. We’ve yet to meet, but Mom assures me Max is great—definitely top dog.