I’ve never been under the illusion that being a parent would be easy, or that I would be super great at it, or that it would even come naturally for me. When my second child was born, eight years after the first, I wondered how I could possibly love two separate beings equally. Then the third was born and I knew that juggling love was less of an actual juggling act and more of an appreciation for each child and the differences they bring to the family unit and the world as a whole.
I have moments where I like one child a lot more than the others, generally in the middle of the grocery store when my teenager is quietly helping me put groceries in the cart while the other two are suffering from major cases of “the Gimmies”. Or sometimes when I walk into the littles’ disaster of a room, begin to see things through a red lens, only to turn around and bump into one of them with a picture drawn for me in their hands.
But never do I have a “favorite”. And I do my very best to treat them as such.
Children are all so different and they all have their own wonderful personalities and unique things that they each bring to the world. You can’t love them the same because they are not all the same, so you learn to love them differently, but equally, and you have to figure out how to meet them each where they are without showing overt favoritism to one of them.
The effects of favoritism in a family run deep, as evidenced by someone who is very close to me. His sister is his parents prized possession. If they could clone her and marry her off to their two sons they would be happy, as no one else will ever quite live up to their golden child. She does no wrong in their eyes, and hasn’t since they were children. She was given ample amounts of grace in sibling squabbles where the boys were punished. She was handed cars and down payments and diamond rings upon graduations where the boys got cards and congratulations and cheap celebratory dinners out.
The effects of this type of favoritism have resulted in men who have little confidence in themselves and need a load of support, but who are unable to see or admit that. It has resulted in one man who feels like he’s pedaling so hard his heart might explode and cannot get ahead, and another who appears to struggle with confidence in opposite and different ways. It has resulted in at least one man who struggles with clinical depression and mommy issues, but who, like many men who struggle with depression, was unable to see it until recently.
This favoritism results in men and women who struggle in relationships and who believe that everyone around them is constantly judging or fake or out to get them.
We see it everywhere, and it happens often in families.
We deliver these children and have these grand ideas and hopes and dreams for them, and when they fail to deliver we latch on to the child who is doing exactly what we wanted them to do, and we give them praise. We are unwilling to nurture our children to do the things that make them happy, even from childhood, or we don’t push them to develop a love of anything, we just let them languish along, never giving them the opportunity to make us proud.
My eldest son is intelligent beyond his years but lacks drive. He is gifted in sciences but I know he would not be happy as an engineer or scientist because he lacks other motivating factors to do those jobs, or to even finish college in those subjects. Instead of putting him in a box and expecting my own hopes and dreams for him, I urge him to find other things that excite him, that make him happy, that he is genuinely good at. That’s how we happened upon drama and a talent for acting that excites him, that motivates him, that gives him confidence. He may never be an A-list celebrity, but his time on stage right now will prepare him for being an attorney, or in sales, or perhaps even an entrepreneur, or whatever he decides to do when he leaves the nest.
After years of fighting it, I finally allowed my daughter to quit dance and begin cheerleading, and she is being moved up to the next group because it is her THING and she is good. She is strong willed and hard working and though school may not come as easily for her as it does the boys, I believe she will succeed in big ways at whatever she puts her mind to.
The youngest is still a baby at only five years old, and his challenging personality has led us to seek athletic avenues to wear him out. He started football this year and while he’s not loving practice right now, I want him to learn the definition of hard work and reward. He will play a different sport in the spring and we will continue narrowing down the things that make him tick. We will help him refine his passions rather than push him to do things that he doesn’t have the drive or personality to accomplish. Maybe one day he goes to tech school and works hard his whole life to make ends meet, there’s no shame in that, as long as he is fulfilled.
For now, they are each vastly different from the others, and I have no room for favoritism. All I can do is love them each where they are, with all the wonderful and difficult gifts and personalities that they have to offer. Because though I may fail them in other ways, I won’t ever let any of them believe one is more sacred to me than the others, or that one is better than the other. In each of their gifts is beauty, not one more beautiful than the other.