On playing favorites


“He is your favorite,” my oldest son said, pointing at his younger brother. “It’s so obvious.”Two lambs fighting each other in a field in spring.

Hmmm. Maybe caffeinated coffee this AM.

And I said what I always say, “I love you both very much. I have no favorite. If his path with me seems easier, that is because of the choices he makes. You keep learning things the hard way.”

He looks at me as if I’m an ogre—no, a dinosaur—no, a mean hag with ogre-ish and dinosaur-ish tendencies—sure that I have no idea what he is feeling.

Oh my boy. You are so very wrong on this count.

I am 16 years old, about to leave the house to go for a run to escape my mother’s icy stare. She is upset with me for one of the many reasons she was always upset with me—an A minus the plus, 15 minutes past curfew. I am very clearly getting the message that I do not measure up. And so I say to her, “You wish I was more like her.” And the “her” I refer to is my older sister.

Normally, my mother is silent when I say this but that evening, she responded with, “Yes. I do.”

And out the door I went, swearing I would never say anything close to my children.

The good news? I haven’t. And I won’t. As much as my eldest learns things the hard way, and as much as the whole family sometimes suffers for that, it does not in any way make me wish him into someone else. For that I’m thankful.

How to teach him that love means allowing any child of mine to take his knocks when necessary. Because I know the knocks get more painful the longer they are delayed. I cannot protect him from his mistakes. But it does not mean that I don’t love him in spite of them.

A heady concept for a boy of 13. One I’m not sure he’ll grasp for some time.

My mother just wanted me to be the easy one. As the sixth child, I knew my sisters had already worn her out. And I wasn’t always easy. Neither is my eldest. But I don’t just want him to be “easy”. I want him to make smart choices because I ache when he does not. And I’m trying to get over that, to some extent. To let him face what his soul came here to face, without so much angst on my part over every little bump in the road.

That mother/child bond teens fight so hard against? It takes us mothers a while longer to ease it. I think that’s why God makes teens so awful sometimes. So we can loosen up with relief, rather than with regret.

I thankfully do not play favorites. But I also thankfully do not shield my children, once they reach a certain age, from the consequences of their choices. I am parenting two old souls. One is quick to connect his choices with the ease of his path. The other has some work to do on accepting personal responsibility.

I thank God for both of them every day. One no more so than the other.

Of that I’m sure.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. I love how you handled the “you love him more” scenario. I think when you are a child or teen with siblings, you can’t grasp the concept of a parent loving equally, yet differently, because everyone is different.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. I certainly didn’t get the different but equal bit until I had kids of my own!

  2. Kay: It is so hard being a parent, isn’t it? And gratifying too, of course. But not easy.

    1. candidkay says:

      Ah yes:). I think some of us signed up for the doctoral course when we meant to take just a brief seminar:). Onward we go . . .

  3. lmarieallen says:

    How awful of your mom to say that to you. I’ve said some things I’m not proud of to my kids, but I’ve made a point to come to them later and apologize, letting them know that I really do love them in spite of my anger.
    And, really, all you can do is love your kids through their mistakes. I learned the hard way that much of what they become is completely beyond your control. No amount of “good parenting” or self-reproach can change that. So you’re absolutely right to loosen the reins, steer them in the right direction and pray for the best. Now, I need to go back and read my own advice:)

  4. markbialczak says:

    The playing field is never level, for child or parent, no matter what. Life won’t let it be, with its ups and downs.

    You are doing very well in keeping an even keel in your expectations and reactions to both of your sons, it seems to me. Congrats, Kay.

  5. SalvaVenia says:

    Preferential treatment – a BIG thing for each and every parents with several offsprings. Just don’t tell me … 🙂

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