Kids are pretty slick when they wish to be, or when you haven’t been looking and then you suddenly turn around to face them again. My children are no exception, but for some reason they seem to be craftier than most, particularly the older they get. “Daddy, how come I can’t eat two cookies, but I just saw you eat three?” “Daddy, what did that man on TV mean when he held up his middle finger?” “Daddy, how are boys and girls different?” And then there’s that ultimate question that kids everywhere have asked their parents for years, and that parents have often answered the same way. The question is pretty slick, and the answer given is always a lie, even if the parents don’t realize it’s a lie. “Daddy, who do you love more?” “I love you both THE SAME.”
“As parents, we do show favoritism, and kids can see it. I think they see it even more than we do.”
No. You don’t love them THE SAME. That would imply that they are the same, and we both know that’s untrue. People are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. So why do parents always use this as their standard response? Because, simply put, they don’t want to take the time to give a real response, and they are put on the spot. But the biggest reason is that they don’t want their children to see them show any favoritism. That’s also the funniest reason, too, because as parents, we DO show favoritism, and kids can see it. I think they see it even more than we do. Let’s say you want to play a game with your kids, and it’s a game of partners. Which one do you pick? Do you pick the kid who tries really hard but is horrible at games, or the one who doesn’t do much but wins most games because she’s good at strategy?
It reminds me of gym class, when we would play a game. Let’s say it’s kickball. There are two captains chosen (I was never one of those), and they alternatively picked players for their teams. You always knew how it would go too, with the big, tough, athletic kids going first, and the nerds (like me) going last. In fact, I was hardly ever actually picked. I was the kid that was leftover, and the teacher would say, “And Jordan picks YOU,” like he had some kind of choice. Jordan would be scowling because he knew I could mess up his chances for victory, and I would be sighing because I agreed with him. What truly sucked, though, is that I’m incredibly competitive, and if I had been given some solid reinforcement that I COULD do it, that I COULD help the team, I probably would have done just that. Instead, I would hang my head, try to stay out of the way of the ball, and hope I might sprain my ankle so I could miss gym and the embarrassment that would follow from each time we would have to pick.
And too many parents are just like that. They choose time and again, and those choices are registered by their children, filed away for future reference, even when those parents don’t even know they’re doing it. The only way to get past that is to truly ask yourself the question your child asked you. Who do you love more? And why? If you break it down, and truly analyze it in your head, you can adjust and recognize all of the amazing traits in your other children. That’s the only way you can even hope to even scales that can never be even. You still can’t love them the same, but you can love them equally different. Think about that for a second. Equally different.
“Show them love for who they are, not for who you wish they were, or for who their siblings are.”
Now, before you think I’m some horrible ogre, I’ll give you another example that should resonate. Think about your circle of friends. Each of them have talents, skills, likes, and dislikes that are individual to them. And you enjoy each of them for something different that they give you and that you give them. You can’t possibly love them the same, but you appreciate each of them for the connections you have. Equally different connections that have become amazing friendships that will stand the test of time. The difference between your friends and your children is that you chose your friends, but your children come from you, and learn from you. That makes it even more imperative that you break down your relationships with each of them to maximize the amount of joy you get from them and that they get from you. Show them love for who they are, not for who you wish they were, or for who their siblings are.
So, then, that still leaves you with a question that needs answering. “Daddy, who do you love more?” “I love you both equally different.” Then, try explaining it. They may tune you out, but at least you’re giving it some real thought.