On Playing Favorites

If there's one thing I can say about my parents, in retrospect, it's that they were excellent about not playing favorites.  (Actually there are lots of things I can say about them, and most of them are good, but I've got to narrow it down in the confines of this little blog.)  My sister might contend that I didn't notice because I was the favorite, but I would argue that.  Granted, there were only two of us, so it might have been easier to divvy up the love, but I don't think that was it.  If a parent is going to show favorites, it seems that it would be more likely to happen if your kids are very different from each other, and you relate to one more than the other.

Julie and I are very different from each other in some ways, and very much alike in others.  Since having my own children, I have noticed how incredibly different two children from the same parents can be.  Shoot, my first two kids could be the test group for a case study on this very subject matter.  They are exact opposites.  In just about every way.  Ben is very serious, task-oriented, and literal (think Amelia Bedelia).  Abby is very fanciful, spirited, and energetic.  Ben likes to stay home.  Abby likes to go...anywhere - "Kroger again?  Sure!  Wait for me!".  Ben can sit and concentrate on small, menial, boring tasks for hours on end.  Abby has other things to do and can't be bothered with things like coloring or flashcards.  When Ben tells stories, he gets bogged down in details.  When Abby tells stories, you can almost physically see her brain take a turn when it starts to get a little drab and she starts to color it with her imagination.

They're just different from each other.

And yet, equally precious.

(I do have a third child, but her personality is just blooming, it's not that I am discounting her or playing favorites to my two eldest.  The comparison between Ben & Abby is just for illustrative purposes.  This concludes my disclaimer for this post.)

The subject of favoritism came up yesterday at church, and has actually come up several times in the past few weeks.  You see, it's a pattern, and it's obvious even in the Bible.  Isaac and Rebekah played favorites to their two boys, Esau and Jacob, respectively.  Maybe because of that, Jacob thought it was only natural to show favoritism towards your kids, and clearly favored Joseph above all of his other brothers.  Whether we like it or not, we "inherit" these behaviors from our parents.  They are the only model we have to emulate.  Or, the most prominent one, at least.  This doesn't mean patterns can't be broken, but it does take a conscious effort not to fall into these conditioned traits.

I will admit that when I got pregnant with Abby, I was simultaneously elated and terrified.  My primary concern throughout that pregnancy was - "How can I possibly love another child as much as I love Ben?"  I just didn't think it could be done.  Some people tried to reassure me that I'd be fine.  Just wait and see.  But being the eternal pessimist and guilt-ridden type, I already felt guilty for falling short as a mother before little Abby was even born.

And then, one day, she arrived.  And it was an experience so unlike having Ben.  I knew what to expect.  I already knew I was a mother.  I didn't have to go through the "whoa whoa, I have to take this home with me?!" emotions.  And instead, I just enjoyed her.  The beautiful blond-haired little girl in my arms had stolen my heart.  All of it.

And here's where I throw out a cliché, because it was the most beautifully appropriate thing I'd ever heard up to that point in my life.  And I can't tell you how many women I've relayed it to that were experiencing the same fear as I was.  (Of course, there's simply no believing it until you experience it, in my opinion.)

A Mother's Love Does Not Divide.  It Multiplies.

So wait, how is that even applicable to favoritism, you ask?

Maybe it's not.  But I assumed Ben would always be my favorite, even though I didn't desire for that to be how it played out.  I never imagined a little girl could come along and steal my whole heart so completely as well.  I'm happy to report I was wrong.

While I'm not perfect by any means (and neither are my kids), I think I do a bang-up job of being fair and loving my kids equally.  There might be some days where it doesn't go the way I wish it did, but it's not a constant struggle like I imagined it would be.  I think I owe this to my parents for exemplifying impartiality.  I also, once again, like to think of it as one of God's little tricks on us.  It's a tiny glimpse into his complete, impartial love for us, each one of us - regardless of how strikingly different we all are.

I'll put it like this - In the winter, I love my heater.  It's my favorite.  Come summertime, I love my air conditioning.  It's my favorite.  

They are completely different, I love them completely.  And, yes, they are my favorites, for the purposes for which they were intended.

And that is how I feel about my three crazy and precious children - 

And maybe it sounds overly-diplomatic and hokey, but the truth is ~

They are all my favorite.


Sherri said...

I love this!! You had the exact same feelings I did when I was waiting to give birth to my second child.....how could I possibly love the second as much as I love the first?? And the minute she was born (my first is a boy, also!) I just KNEW. Hokey, crazy, but I knew that I loved her and it was instant.

Mine are as different as night and day (I only have the two, but they are almost 11 and 16 now) and I can say after years of raising them that loving them equally doesn't always mean that things are the same for them. Does that make sense? I may have to treat them differently due to their station in life or their personality, but I couldn't love them any more!

newmommy said...

I love what you decided to write here. I have been dealing with a lot of this with our kids. I have a one year old (Austin) and a 6 year old( Chandler). I try my hardest to make everything fair and show them both love as much as possible. But what my 6 year old doesnt understand is that I HAVE to do things for the baby that I may not have to do for him. So I feel in his eyes he sees it as that I am showing more love to the baby...its hard and It breaks my heart because I know that I am trying my best. So usually when he mentions something I just tell him I love him so much and he is very special to me. I also do "special" days. Where I take Chandler(6yr) and me and just spend time together and do the things that he wants too. That usually helps :) Love this post! I could go on and on....

Debbie said...

I love this! I always love your posts, but this one is definitely one of my favorites. I love the analogy of the heater and air conditioner.

I feel the same way about my just-perfect-for-me daughters. I love different things with each of them. Even simple things like time of day. Coffee is in the morning is more fun with one; coffee in the afternoon is more fun with the other. Of course, I actually DO have a favorite...

(Just kidding. Since they both inherited the snoop gene from their mother and read here, I wanted to mess with their heads.)

Jennie said...

Well I am sorry, Mrs. Debbie, but there is no anonymous stalking allowed on this blog. Serves them right for reading and not telling me about it. ;)

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