Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Do Parents Have Favorites?

This is my entire parenting philosophy
People who do not have children, ask me all the time if I have a favorite child.
When my sisters and brother and I were growing up, we asked all the time if our parents had a favorite.
The correct answer that you give your child, always, forever, is no. I do not have a favorite. I love you all the same.
The truth of course, at least in my opinion, is yes.
Parents have favorites.
The caviat to this uncomfortable truth, is that favorites change over time, depending on the age and the stage that your kids are in.
When your 16 year old daughter is screaminig that she hates you from the top of the stairs, as she throws the expensive shit you bought her around the bedroom in the house you pay for, over something as trivial as what you made for dinner, she is probably not your favorite.
In that moment, the child who is sitting quietly at the table coloring you a picture, probably looks like they're sitting in a golden ray of heaven's light. Perfect.
But, when that lovely angel baby who was coloring you a picture yesterday, throws a screaming tantrum in Walmart over a water gun today, and your bratty 16 year old daughter is the one to calm them down and distract them, you would suddenly give anything to bathe in the glow of your precious teenage cherub's spirit energy.
Sometimes favorites change by the day, sometimes they change with the beginning or end of a new phase, or particularly difficult age group.
I don't like the fact that this isn't something we can admit to, at least among other adult parents, far from the prying ears of our sensitive children.
Of course I would never say to my lovely son that because he has been acting like a meth addicted lab monkey for the past 6 weeks, and making my hair fall out in crazy, horror movie stress clumps, he is not my favorite right now.
But I wonder why we're so scared to admit it to one another, as parents.
Are we scared to admit that our children are not perfect?
Is it uncomfortable to look at them, and our relationships with them, that nakedly?
Does it feel wrong to admit that there are aspects of our children's personalities that are hard for us to deal with or accept?
As parents we're supposed to love completely, 100%, and unconditionally.
Does admitting that we sometimes don't like every single thing about our kids every day of their lives, feel like we're not loving them like we're supposed to?
Maybe we're being too hard on ourselves.
To be fair, we don't get a lot of say in who our children are, in the most basic aspects of the personality anyway.
When we have kids, we have as little control, if not less, over what kind of personality they will have, than we do what eye color they're born with or if they're right or left handed.
There is no guarantee that we as human beings, will mesh perfectly with every aspect of their ever evolving and changing personalities and unique identities, all the time.
We will love them, we will cherish them, but we may not always harmonize with them.
There will almost definitely be times where our relationship with one child is requiring more work, while simultaneously our relationship with the other is in an easier phase, a period of closeness and harmony that just happens to be coming more easily at that exact moment.
And that's ok.
And, if we're being honest, there will almost definitely be qualities or traits to our children, that we would not like very much if we encountered them in a perfect stranger, and therefor will require more effort from us in order to be patient and accepting of those things all the time.
And that's ok.
I don't believe this means I love either of my kids less than the other.
I think it means that I recognize their differences.
They are two completely individual and unique people. Both have their own wonderful set of charms and blessings that they've bestowed upon my life. Both children also have their own unique set of challenges and struggles, and both children go through their own phases of growing up that are hard on me in different ways.
And maybe it does even mean that I love them differently.
Not different amounts, but in different ways.
Love is not a blanket that can be blindly tossed over everyone in the same way.
It's a unique and precious bond between two people, a commitment that takes work, and flexibility.
My children are not identical to each other,
they are not identical to me,
they will not be the same people for the rest of their lives.
They have to be loved in different ways.
In the end though, when we have kids, it's like entering a marriage that we can't ever get out of.
It won't be a honey-tinted Pampers commercial all the time, any more than marriage is a rose colored Zales commercial all the time either.
It will require work, it will get hard, it will sometimes be your least favorite thing to do.
There shouldn't be anything wrong with admitting to that.
What gets us through raising little humans, is not that its all roses or that our children never irritate, infuriate, or disappoint us.
It's that unlike a marriage, you can't ever fall out of love with your kids.
No matter how much they scream they hate you and your tasteless chicken, from the top of the stairs.

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