A parent recently asked me whether or not she should feel guilty about liking one child more than another. This is a really hard question. My first answer is no. Liking is not love. Do you feel guilty that you make one person your friend and not someone else? No, right? Likewise you might have half a dozen first cousins--a fairly close blood relationship which connects you undeniably--and have no problem calling one your favorite. I certainly had a favorite aunt. As a teacher I loved all my kids. I really did. It just wasn't in me to have a child in my class every day and not love him, but some were certainly easier to like than others and some were certainly more memorable.
Let me also reassure you that if you like one of your children better than the others, you are not alone. For years I taught every seventh grader at my school. That meant that I had many, many siblings pass through my class and I sat down with the same parents for conferences for each of their children. It was often clear to me when a parent found a particular child easy and another one difficult. At times parents would compare their children. What preference seemed to come down to was a sense that "Bobby and I just get each other" or "Mary is just easy to like." Let's face it. In general, more easygoing people are easier to be around, easier to like. On the other hand, if you have a child who struggles with the same things you struggle with, often that makes for a closer connection, a more special bond. You do not set out to like one child over the other, it is just that something in that child pulls you. The reaction is a natural one.
Now let me play devil's advocate. I have always operated from the stance that the purpose of guilt is to make you reflect and think. After that, it is no longer useful and you should do your best to let it go. So guilt washes over you that you like one child better than another. Great! The next question might be, if liking one child better than another is common and natural, why would I be feeling guilty? I think the answer is this. You've heard it said that every child should have at least one adult who is absolutely crazy about him. What is more natural than for that person to be the child's parent? It does seem to me that it is a parent's particular responsibility to do the work to become crazy about each of her children.
Remember the article that came out January 2014 about the series of questions that were designed to make two people fall in love? The questions started at a more superficial level and bit by bit drew the partners to a deeper and deeper level of intimacy. The supposition of the researchers was that love comes as a result of a shared experience which connects two people, and interestingly enough, while those can be actual shared experiences--like doing a project together or helping each other get from one place to another--it also works to just be really emotionally present while another person is sharing his inner self.
What if you were to set out to fall in love with the children who aren't quite as accessible to you? What if you really made it your mission to create some of that shared intimacy that comes so easily with your favorite child. Would it feel difficult and awkward? Sure. It probably would, but imagine the payback! And I'll let you in on a little trade secret: With my students, it was often the ones who were the most work--who drove me the most crazy--who have a special corner in my heart. How could they not? By the time I had put in all that extra work trying to reach that child, I had spent more time with him and had had more in depth conversations. Try it! I bet you will find that your capacity to develop enormous affection and liking for each of your children is greater than you think.
Having a favorite--while I'd like you to work on that--is not the end of the earth: Playing favorites will destroy your family. If you are afraid that that is what you are doing, let's talk. Sign up for a complimentary session HERE.