That’s my story, and I am sticking to it.
But do I really not have a favorite?
There’s no doubt I would throw myself in front of a bus to save any one of my kids. I feel equally responsible to ensure all my kids are taken care of, physically, emotionally, and otherwise. I want to encourage each of them to be the best she can, to pursue her unique talents and interests, to be a good person, and to succeed at what she puts her mind to.
A friend once said he worries that he may love his oldest child the most because as firstborn he was once the only child in the family, the sole focus of his parents’ attention, the beneficiary of a unique time—which his siblings will never experience—when that bond between child and parent developed unencumbered by siblings’ needs. I can understand that, and I sometimes find myself sharing the sentiment, especially as my oldest matures, becomes more independent, and we can have more sophisticated conversations and pursue shared interests.
Then again, I can easily argue that it’s the baby of the family whom I—along with many other parents, I am sure—love most. “You will always be my baby,” said parents to their youngest from time immemorial, even if the child doesn’t often see that sentiment as a welcome thing. In our family, our third daughter is the clown, always working to make us laugh. She’s infinitely cute every minute of every day, and she’s our last tie to that precious period when we had babies, a constant reminder of how our lives have progressed over the years. Perhaps I love her most?
Of course, the second of our three children also can make a claim to the biggest piece of my heart, what with her middle-child precociousness, that thinly veiled need to stand out and be heard. She is a crucial bridge between oldest and youngest—not to mention someone with strong emotions about everything—and so she in many ways sets our family agenda. She’s a carbon copy of my wife and yet reminds me of myself as a child in many ways. So maybe I love her most?
I suppose I must say I do have a favorite. But that favorite may change day to day or even minute to minute. My kids have distinct personalities, needs, interests, quirks, behavioral patterns, challenges, talents, and ways of interacting with the world. It wouldn’t be normal—wouldn’t be human—to have exactly the same feelings toward each of them every minute of every day. I may be willing to throw myself in front of that bus for any of them, but when one child is throwing an epic tantrum and defying every effort to calm her down, I am certainly not feeling as warm and fuzzy as I am with the one helping me set the table.
Perhaps, then, it’s most true to say not that I love my kids equally, but I love them the same amount—differently, to be sure, since they are different people, but at the same level and volume. No, I don’t have a favorite, nor do I lump them all together as just “my kids whom I love.” I try to see, accept, honor, and love each one as a full, autonomous, unique human being, and that requires a unique type of love for each. Loving them “equally” would fail to do this—but I sure do love each of them the same amount.