"Love can’t be divided, it can only be multiplied ". We’ve all heard that saying many times. But deep down, we all carry this fear of having a favourite. And sometimes, there is in fact a child with whom we “click” more. Or one with whom we inevitably have more frictions (often because he’s so much like us!). Feeling guilty about not loving your children the same way is a waste of energy would only mean starting out on the wrong foot.
Loving everyone the same?
It’s impossible to love our children exactly for the same reasons, to love them the same way. Which basically means that we have a “favourite”, but we’re quick to ban that word from our vocabulary. What we need to understand (and accept) is that we love all our children, no matter what. However, depending on their age, gender, personality, interests and the energy they require from us, we often develop more affinity with one of them. Over time, as we all change, so does this complicity. We’re not always closer to the same child during our life.
As a parent, this situation hurts us. We don’t want to have a favourite! The term is loaded with negativity. However, it is our actions and behaviours that will determine if the situation is hurtful or not. Of course, if we always put one of our children first (when buying clothes as much as serving dinner), the others might feel left out ... especially if you do not explain the reasons for your choices. If you buy clothes to your oldest because he’ll eventually pass it on to his younger siblings, allowing you to save money, they’ll be able to understand if you explain it to them.
That being said, the younger child might find it unfair to always end up with hand-me-downs. Try to find a common ground with him and agree on some new clothes that he could choose as well? As far as something as innocuous as to who will get his plate first, you might be doing it without even thinking it could be a source of conflict among siblings, let alone be interpreted as a sign that you love one child more than another. Who would have thought that the service order at the table could cause a conflict? In a case like this, where love is not involved, explain to the child that he has no reason to doubt your love, and make an effort to vary the order of service. Children sometimes see signs where there are none!
The important thing is not to slip into unjustified... injustice! One of your children must not hold all your attention, and especially not be at the center of all your actions. EVER. One one side, the “favourite” one, faced with this overflow of love, could feel indebted to you and ill at ease with his siblings. And on the other side, the others could lose in self-confidence and develop bad feelings towards you. And then, the entire family relationships would be tense.
Every child has a history
Each of our children carries in him a lot of memories that are not even related to him as a human being. Our relationship with him may be influenced by:
The time of his birth. When he was born, were we in a state of euphoria? A difficult period in our marriage? How did your maternity leave go? Did you quit your job? Abandon a dream?
Our own childhood. Depending on how our own childhood was spent, we won’t act the same way with our children. So if we were the youngest of the family, we might have more affinity with the youngest of our children.
The mirror effect. When one of our kids is a lot like us - both physically and psychologically - it's enough to influence our relationship. However, as much as this relationship can be symbiotic, it can also be confrontational if we see our bad sides in our child.