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2.12.2013

Call Me a Liar, But I Don't Have a Favorite

Could I pick a favorite?  Could you?
Several months ago a Daddy blogger's post on favoritism went viral- he proclaimed to the public that he had a favorite son and he wasn't ashamed to admit it.  Every parent does.  If they don't they're lying.

Okay, I don't know if he actually said that last part.
I kind of have this thing- if someone writes a blog post that seems to generally be hateful or damaging or intentionally controversial I refuse to read it.  I think the trend towards sensationalism in all forms of media (including blogs) is dangerous.  I don't care if my distaste for sensationalism is the reason my readership remains, um, consistent(ly low... although I suspect that has as much to do with MY lack of consistency as anything else), while others ride waves of luck and extremism to notoriety.  And I don't want to add one more page view to someone who is taking advantage of this trend.

But agree or not, the topic made me think.  And it made me think again today, when the story was rehashed due to a recent study showing that (you guessed it...) it is psychologically damaging to the ENTIRE FAMILY to express favoritism for one child.  Big stinkin' surprise.

But before I had kids I completely expected to have a favorite child.  I was a preschool teacher and I always had (yet never expressed) my favorites.  I couldn't picture having kids as being any different.  I figured that all parents had favorites and the good ones just kept it a secret.

But a lot has changed since I have had kids.  For one thing, I can no longer can stand other people's kids (more or less- there are friends' kids who are very notable exceptions).  It's like I had a finite amount of patience and my kids use it all every day.  But also it's not truly the kids that bother me, but how they act, which is typically either a direct result of how they are parented in general or how they are being parented in the moment- that's probably why my friend's kids are exceptions.

I've also learned a lot about loving someone (and then multiple someones) so much it makes your heart want to explode (I know, it's cheesy and I don't do cheesy well, so bear with me).  When you find out, as a parent, that you are having a second child, it is something that crosses your mind- will I be able to love another child as much as I already love my first child?  How can it be possible to have a bond this strong with another child?  You may even worry if the new baby is going to negatively affect the bond you have with your older child.

But in my experience these feelings are purely functional.  You worry that you won't form as strong of a bond with the new baby, so you spend extra skin to skin time with the new baby.  You worry about the new baby affecting your relationship with the older child, so you go out of your way to spend one on one time with that child.  As long as we aren't asleep on the job, there is seldom anything to truly worry about.  And more importantly, there is always room for another child in our hearts.

Yes I know, this isn't about loving our children equaly, this is about favorites.  I do know the difference.  While I can't speak for other parents, I couldn't tell you who my favorite child is.  I've honestly wracked my brain.

Isabel is a miniature version of me in almost every way.  She is independent, strong willed, and self motivated.  She travels extremely well (not all kids do- she always has), almost always does what she's told, and has an awe inspiring attention span.  She is one of the kindest, most compassionate, most sensitive children I have ever known   And she's a genius.  I love taking her places and snuggling with her on the couch (although :::sniff:: she's nearly too big) and talking to her, and especially reading to her because she is such a sponge.

Oliver is completely different- he is at the same time more challenging and more rewarding to parent.  He is bright, energetic, and in constant need of stimulation of some sort.  He tells the most fantastic and extremely detailed stories about his "friends" (his stuffed animals usually) and the pictures he draws, yet despite his propensity towards stories he is always honest, even when it comes to admitting he did something wrong.  He loves to hug and cuddle and just generally needs, wants, and enjoys more physical contact than his sister ever did.  I love having conversations with him, cuddling him, and more and more I actually enjoy taking him places as well.  I most especially love the way he smiles at me when I come home from a meeting or pick him up at preschool.

If I had to pick a favorite I couldn't... the only thing I could do is say that my "favorite" is either of them, but alone.  Get them together and they're like most siblings- either running around like crazy people winding each other up (and making me insane in the process) or picking at each other until they scream (and making me... well you get the picture).

But while I won't read his post, I don't villainize the guy either.  First of all, he's a man.  They tend to like things compartmentalized, itemized, ranked, sorted, and ordered.  One thing must rank above another.

Secondly, if I remember correctly his kids were 2 and 4.  If I had written this post when my kids were 2 and 4 it probably would have gone a little differently.  Obviously, and especially for a man since men tend to be more physical, older kids are more fun and less work.  Two-year-olds still need to be held and nurtured (and often have their diapers changed...).  However I also think, had I written a similar post when my kids were 2 and 4, I would have realized the unfairness of it.  Up until at least 3 kids are far more work than reward, and stating that your four year old is your favorite (in public, on the internet, where he will most likely come across it or the fallout from it at some point in his life) is unfair, because you haven't given the younger child the chance to come out of that phase of his life and show you his personality.  Like Oliver- he has always been the light of my life and God's way of showing me that I don't always know what I want (I thought I wanted a girl, I was obviously wrong).  He has always been bright.  But only in the last year of his life has he began to actually show us who he is and how much fun he can be.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I probably have a favorite, but it changes back and forth.  On some days Izzy's super sensitivity takes over her entire mind, body, and soul and she cries (and screams) every time you look at her sideways- on those days Oliver is likely my favorite.  And on some days Oliver spends the entire day revolving between asking me ridiculous questions, begging for a snack, and asking to play on the ipad (even though I've said no to the latter two 500 times already)- on those days Izzy is probably my favorite.  Two or so years ago, when Oliver was still a toddler and Izzy was four, I would have told you Izzy was my favorite if we had to go anywhere, but Oliver was my favorite when I felt like cuddling.

And I'm not necessarily saying it is wrong to have a favorite.  I would, however, encourage anyone who feels they have a favorite child to analyze their behavior because of it.  Do you spend more time with the child you feel is your favorite?  Do the two of you do special things together?  Because by doing things more often with the "favorite" child you are not only alienating the other child(ren), you are perpetuating the cycle.... you feel the child is your favorite, you go do something fun and make memories with your child, hence furthering the bond you feel for each other and putting the other kids more "in the hole."  So no matter how you feel do your best to divide your time as fairly as you can between your children.  For me it is as simple as them taking turns accompanying me on errands on the weekend (when the other can stay home and bond with dad).  The rest of the time, when we are at home, self regulates because I give the attention to the child who needs the attention.  For my husband and for working parents this can be more difficult, but it is equally as important.  And it was the same when I was working with preschoolers- one of the best pieces of advice I got from a senior teacher was to spend EXTRA time with any child I was having a hard time with.  Then you give each other the chance to form and strengthen a bond.

What about you- do you have a favorite child?

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