Wednesday 29 July 2015

Why I have a favourite child

favouritism, favourite, favourite child, unconditional love, parenting blog, blog, funny parenting blog, mother diaries, motherhood, parenting tips,

When you have one child you cannot imagine loving another child the same. You have journeyed with him from day one, cared for him in the most intimate ways, and studied every line and curve on his face; his button nose, his perfect ears, the way his eyes light up when he sees you (or food). The thought of having another child seems alien when you just have one – how can you possibly have any more to give another child? How can you possibly love another just as much?

People told me I would love another one just the same when he or she came along and I quickly discovered that that was not the case. After giving birth for the second time, I was presented with a baby that seemed to just coo at me at every waking moment, who snuggled into me every chance he got – a far cry from my eldest who, well, cried. A lot. And as all mothers do in secret, I compared the two and felt I had won the lottery this time around. A baby that hardly cries? Is that even possible? Baby number two was undoubtably my favourite.

My eldest took to him like a dream; he suddenly matured into a caring and considerate older brother, cuddling him and making him laugh. He even did things for me to help out, helping me put washing away and fetching me his baby clothes. He watched intently as I changed the newborn's nappy, asking me questions about how the tape worked and where the wee goes. And on mornings when I'd had bad nights feeding he would allow me to nap while he climbed into bed with me and played on my phone. My eldest was undoubtably my favourite.

Yes, I have a favourite child. Which one? Well, it depends entirely on the day. Today, it is my eldest because he made me laugh till my sides ached this morning, whereas my youngest whined and wouldn't eat his breakfast. Tomorrow my eldest could refuse to get dressed and pee all over the bathroom floor and I would undoubtably be favouring my youngest again. You see, all parents have favourites, but what this really means is favouring the behaviour that makes life the easiest. In theory, not many wish for a hyperactive child over one who sits and reads books quietly, but that doesn't mean you would want to change a child just because they are more demanding (maybe sometimes). You see how they tick, and why they prefer the things they do and you appreciate that they are very different. You try to encourage them into the unique person they are, but that doesn't mean you don't just wish for an easy life sometimes, who doesn't? But easy isn't alway best.

Do I love my children just the same? No. I do not. I do not love them in the same way at all. They are entirely different people. I probably love them the same amount, but this is impossible to quantify. In some respects they are both my favourites; I look at my eldest and instantly favour him (as long as he's not picking his nose), and I look at my youngest and instantly favour him too (as long as he's not puked on my jumper). I sometimes dart between the two and feel so incredibly overwhelmed with favouritism it's untrue, but I can't quite decide which one for.

Favouritism is conditional, love isn't. But favouritism can come across as love sometimes. I can get angry with my son for doing something wrong and he can presume I don't love him any more. I can praise him for doing something good and he can presume that my love is earned by these things. It's important I separate the two things so my children know they are loved unconditionally regardless of their actions. I may not alway favour what they do but I will always love them.

So I guess my point is that having favourites is inevitable, but favouritism needs to be treated for the fickle thing it really is. In my opinion children need to recognise the difference so that they are not continuously seeking approval in life, nor rebelling against it. They are beautiful people just because of who they are; they do not have to work for it. If they want to be equipped with good tools for life it will be a benefit to them to favour some behaviour over others, to be selective about praise and criticism, but to always see the good and cultivate it. A 'difficult' child is one that makes life difficult for adults because he doesn't follow the rules or stay quiet, but this doesn't mean he is unlovable, or that those things cannot be channelled into really good things. Disapproval of behaviour doesn't mean disapproval of them, and this needs to be clear. You may be surprised just how powerful saying I love you is. It's the same whatever age your children are, whatever they've done in life. You do not have to accept what they do, but only love can change things.

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