I love all my children equally. Yes, I really do. I love my bonus daughter for her amazing compassion, her pragmatic nature and her constant (and oft-stated belief) that she is awesome. I love my bonus son for his dirty sense of humour, his unexpected bursts of maturity and self-awareness and his wry comments on life. I love my daughter for her steel fist in a velvet glove approach to life, because she sings in the shower and because she never gives up. And I think because she is the easiest of children – when you are rarely pissed at a child, it’s very easy to love them. I love my older son because he is so totally lovable; for his boundless enthusiasm for everything he undertakes and for the true self-confidence that allows him to befriend everyone and sail through life’s troughs and peaks. I love one of my small boys for his affectionate nature, his imagination and his imperiousness; for his elephantine memory and his empathy. I love my other small boy for his appreciation of beauty in the world around him, for his open, generous soul and his so-far-outside-of-the-box-that-it’s-practically-perpindicular thinking. But do I have a favourite? I like to think that I don’t have one favourite. I have six.
I understand as an adult that there are some people in our lives with whom we have an instant connection, a bond forged not by reason but by an instinctive gut-feel that we know this person inside and out. I have friends like this – half a minute into our first meeting, we’ve been friends forever and we will be friends forever and we know each other inside and out. And I think the same holds true for parents and children. Sometimes a personality match just happens and it is easier for a parent to love one child than it is for them to love another. We saw this in my family. My mother and my brother just fit better. They always have and they always will.
I look at my children with their grandparents and can see that there are one or two who have a special bond with a grandparent – by dint of similar natures, openness of personality, sociability, their brains working the same way – call it what you will, there is an extra dimension of connection, even though they are all well-loved by them all.
There are parts of me which respond to specific things in my children, and definitely parts of me which are repelled by other parts of them (I use the word repelled in a scientific way – much like a magnet repels a similar pole, the things in my children I don’t always like are the things I don’t much like in myself). But do I have a favourite?
I would have to say yes, I do – but my favourite constantly changes, depending on the day, my mood, their behaviour, or even just the moment. There’s the small boy slipping an arm around my neck and whispering how much he loves me; the young woman who shows me the depth of her feelings in a rare glimpse of her true self; the young man who appreciates that his younger cousin knows more than him and is prepared to learn from him. There’s the sudden realisation that this child can see beauty; that this one has so much empathy; that this one needs a little more guidance and help just now and that this one has just stepped up and showed that they will not be a bystander in life by breaking up a classroom fight that everyone else was just watching (this was a daughter by the way and I am very proud of her).
Some of it is pride in them and in the personalities that they are growing into. Some of it is because the traits they are showing are amazing ones to possess. Some of it is wonder at their amazing diversity and rich characters. And sometimes, it’s just because they love me.
Will I ever tell them that they are my favourite in this moment? No, because I don’t ever want the others to feel that they are not equally special to me. But just as they are all very different people, there are times when one of them is more special. And as I am an inconsistent and flawed person, there are times when I just like one more than the others.
So yes, I have favourites. But I prefer that my children never know who that is at any given time. I hope that as a parent, I can make each of them feel special, each of them wanted and that each of them are a blessing to me. Not every moment, that is just unrealistic! But I hope that when they are grown and looking back on our relationship, all that they see is that they have a unique connection with me; a connection which reflects who they are, and who I am when I am with them. Because they make me better, mostly! Even when they bring out the worst in me! Actually, they probably make me better when they push to me to my limits, and for that, they are all my favourites.
How do you find it in your family when it comes to instant bonds, playing favourites and keeping things fair and equitable?