50/50 odds and pick ’em.

This article and the idea of “favorites” has been the topic of the week with my mommy friends. Whether or not parents play favorites has certainly been debated since sibling rivalry was invented, but I don’t remember seeing anyone posit so confidently that a whopping 95% of parents definitely, certainly, and without question have a favorite child. (And – what? The other five percent possess an utter lack of emotion?) To be fair, the author was quoting the author of a recently published parenting book, but she seems to have bought into the theory.

Maybe if the premise was that 95% of parents play favorites, that I could certainly buy. Heck, I do that all the time. The favorite is clearly the child who is listening to what I am asking her to do, who is not whining, who is not bringing notes home from school or otherwise making me question what in god’s green earth I am doing. Who doesn’t, at least once a day, want to sell one of their children to the gypsies? Or want to buy someone a pony because at least she finished her homework before you had to tie her to her chair and put on your drill sergeant hat? And who the heck’s children manage to fit a single mood all day and not trade off tactics with their siblings, with the solitary goal (it seems) of making Mommy mentally unhinged? Ahem.

My point is that my children, at least, have far too much personality packed into them, far too many little selves for me to ever manage to choose one who for a solid day had been my favorite all along – even if I was being honest! When Gracie gets all excited about a chapter she has read, or showing off the school work she learned: she is my favorite. When Bee’s face lights up because she figured out a problem all by herself, or when she gets that mischievous court-jester twinkle in her eye, or when I overhear her gut-busting pretend play from the next room: she is my favorite. But I could never choose which little girl I would save first if our house was on fire and both were unconscious.

Which wasn’t really the point of the article. It didn’t push the “favorites” issue quite that far. The author was justifying the claim based more on instinctual affinity for the child who most closely resembles you. Which is an interesting theory, because it lets the 95% of the parents blamed in the article off the hook: you can’t really help having one child who has taken on your characteristics and inherited your genes, can you? No, you can’t. Of my two girls, I can say that one more closely reminds me of myself. One needs feedback and approval more than the other. One has sought out the role of “little momma” and thirsts for responsibility. One would sooner give up breathing than arguing and justifying even the smallest action. One has a wicked sence of humor, sarcasm, and mockery. (Okay, okay – they both have that.) And I will admit that my heart does swell when I notice those mini-me characteristics. But so, too, does it find every single similar fault, every weakness, and whereas I think the author of the article – and many other parents – think, Oh! I know all about that! I shall fix in you what I can’t fix in myself! Because I know better now and can debug this newer model!  I am more, You’re doomed, kid. I can help her learn the tools to overcome it, but “fixing” those issues is going to be entirely up to her, just as it’s up to me to fix my own faults. So as much as I admire the ways that one child and I are similar in many ways, I admire my other little duckling for being different and “better” than my faults.

Perhaps the author should have declared that 95% of parents understand one child better, rather than favoring one child, and then still followed up with what I thought was a very interested comment, which was sort of glossed over near the end: even a denial is in itself an act of love. It insinuates that parents don’t want to be unfair towards their children, or treat them differently. It’s a great point and, to me at least, the real focus. Whether or not there is a favorite, parents should constantly find ways to connect, love, and understand each child.

That doesn’t mean everything has to be the same, evenly divided and measured at all times. Children will have different needs at different times. And always cut yourself some slack – life is hard and we will get it wrong sometimes. But keep an eye open to how things look to how each child is feeling. How would they rate how things are going? Be open to adjustments. And most of all – just keep trying. I mess up constantly, it seems like, but at least I will never doubt that my kids see how hard I try. And and as long as I’m their favorite mama, I guess that’s all that counts.

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3 Responses to “50/50 odds and pick ’em.”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Can’t wait until I have time to read the article. This had been a huge topic in my house lately and 9-year-old thinks 12-year-old get EVERYTHING. He can’t seem to understand that the privileges she gets at 12 she didn’t get at 9 and he won’t get at 9 either. I often feel like I am playing favorites even when I know I am just being Mom.

    Of course, I KNOW I am my mom’s favorite. 🙂 I am, after all, the child that gave her grandbabies.

  2. This is what happens when you encourage thinking outside the box. « Can’t Get There From Here Says:

    […] Can’t Get There From Here …and that is why I’ve created my own little universe. Pull up a chair. « 50/50 odds and pick ‘em. […]

  3. LW Says:

    the one who reminds me more of myself (especially as a child) exasperates me with those very ‘qualities’ (overly sensitive, for example). Not sure I could pick at all but at the same time I’m sure who my mum’s favourite (out of 4) is, even though she’d never admit it!

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