Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Very Delicate Subject

Favoritism. It's a dirty word of parenting. I think it could be one of the biggest fears of parenting, one of our big taboos. I was was pondering it this morning, and am just sort of thinking online here for a bit.

First, let me say that in my case, at least, I sincerely love all my children the same. I would imagine that the majority of us do.

But...and here's the thing that I think many parents are afraid to admit, and maybe even feel unnecessarily ashamed of. I connect with my children in varying degrees, and on many different levels. Sometimes I feel a kinship that may be stronger with one or another of them. I may not be clarifying this well, but I will try.

Let's be hypothetical. Say Jane Doe has three sons, John, Jim and Jack.

John is a loner. He's very intelligent and helpful, but also very willful and stubborn at times. Jane loves him with all her heart, but much of her time is spent trying to connect with him, or molding and correcting his willful attitudes. Their connection may be strained at times, but the love and protection is always there.

Jim is a people person. He loves to interact with others, but can be selfish at times. He tries to stay "within the lines," because he has realized that will make his path smoother. Jane does not love Jim more, but may be able to enjoy their time together more, because it is spent interacting in a positive rather than a negative way.

Let's say Jack is the baby. He's 2, and more high maintenance, simply because of his age. He is a happy toddler, and into everything. Jane loves Jack in that way that a mother loves her youngest, but neither more nor less than either of her other two boys. She may need a break from him at times, because keeping up with him can be exhausting.

My mother-in-law was talking to me yesterday about the fact that she feels a stronger bond with one of my daughters than the others. I was marveling this morning that it didn't offend me or set off any alarms when she shared this with me. I do not doubt that she loves all three fiercely, but I understand her connection with one over the others.

That's what prompted this post. I think there are many parents, especially mothers, out there who may feel a stronger bond with one child, and feel tremendously guilty about it. In my case, the stronger bond isn't even always with the same child. But because I care too much about what other people think, I sometimes wonder if people think I play favorites. Except I don't so much see it as playing favorites, as just the natural ebb and flow of parenting.

What do you think? I know that this may be a little rambling, but hopefully you will get the gist of what I'm saying. I'd love to have a discussion about this in my comments if you'd like to weigh in.

Talk amongst yourselves.


Brandie said...

I love my kids each differently and in very unique ways.
I do wonder if they'll look back and think the other was a favorite, but I'm doing the best I can to meet each of them in a way I think s/he needs to be met and that simply means it happens in different ways.
I don't know if I feel connected to one more than the other two, but I know my love for them all shows very differently. I think they know that and haven't yet complained. But I do wonder what they will say to me when they are 20 or 30 and reflecting on their childhood.
I don't think I'd be offended if someone told me they had more of a bond with one of the children over the other.
Sadly though, we had one grandparent say she only liked one of our children, and that ticked me off big time - which I think it would have hurt anyone to hear that from someone who is supposed to love and care about your family. Thankfully, the kids didn't hear it because I can't imagine what the other two would have felt like hearing that garbage.

Kristen said...

I can see your point totally. My oldest son is quiet, deep thinking. I bond with him in deep conversations. My middle son is active. I bond with him in activities. My baby is my baby, even though he's 5 now. I think it's natural to love all your children with the love of a mom, but based on their personalities, you have a different relationship with each of them. Thanks for sharing.