The moment my husband and I decided to have our second child, I was prepared for the inevitable question of, “What if you have a favorite child?”
It just seems to be the question that gets asked at one point or another, by a friend or complete stranger. It was a question that I felt in the deepest parts of my being: I wouldn’t have a favorite child. How could I? It truly wasn’t even a concept on my radar.
Let’s make it super clear right now. I do not have a favorite child. My children are everything to me, in the most equal way possible. They both amaze me every single day, and their individuality is what makes me love them both even more! What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the moment my daughter asked me,
Why do you care about his activities and accomplishments more?
That stopped me right in my tracks. Never, not even for a moment, have I cared about one child’s activities or accomplishments more than the other’s. Favorite child? Sure, I was ready for that one. But this? What had my husband and I done though, that would cause my daughter to think this way?
It was baffling really too, because on our end we focused so much on making sure she never felt jilted upon the arrival of her brother. We made sure there was plenty of one on one time with her especially when he was first born, and to this day we still make sure she gets to spend alone time with either of us at her request.
What stood out to me is this: 1) She is older, so we had different expectations of her than for her brother and 2) She was forgetting when we celebrated her milestones and activities and didn’t understand that it was her little brother’s turn.
The Age Game
You’re older, you should act it.
Your brother is only (insert any age here), he doesn’t know any better.
These are two examples of what we have caught ourselves saying instinctually. Our daughter’s complaint helped us realize how we supported her feeling that the rules are different for her and our son. Ultimately, what was happening in her eyes is that her brother was getting away with more than she was, and she was feeling limited in what she was allowed to do. Exaggerated? Yes! But valid nonetheless.
It became obvious that at times, we were putting added stress on our daughter as the older child. Our raised expectations of our daughter came off as us caring more about our son’s activities than hers. How could we have been so naive to think that she wouldn’t feel this way? That she was too young to feel so frustrated? That she would actually think we favored her brother?
We must remind ourselves that she is still only six, and just because she acts older at times does not allow us to add expectations that just aren’t a reality. She’s still little. She’s still just a young girl who wants to play like a kid and act like a kid. She just wants to be able to be carefree like her little brother, and that’s ok.
Milestones, Round 2
Milestones are milestones. I don’t care if it is your first child or your fifth. Every milestone that is reached is exciting and fascinating, so you naturally celebrate like it was the first time every time.
What happens, however, is children quickly forget the praise and celebration they experienced after an accomplishment when someone else is being celebrated. They forget that they had their first time walking celebrated. The first time they rode a bike without training wheels. The first time they could pump on the swing by themselves. You get it? They forget. And what happens is in the moment of another child being celebrated for accomplishments, they react defensively as if they missed out on such a similar celebration.
Celebration however should never be confused with favoritism. And in our case, that is exactly what our daughter was doing. She believed her brother was our favorite child, because of our most recent celebrations. In the last few months, we celebrated hockey season ending, his 5th birthday, and t-ball. So, I can see how to our six year-old daughter, that’s would seem like an unfair balance of celebrating.
We have always kept our celebrations of our children’s accomplishments separate so that they felt a stronger sense of pride. When one has accomplished something or we are celebrating something, we don’t offer up an equal celebration (or gift) to the other to make them feel like they aren’t missing out.
Without hesitation, our daughter now knows that we absolutely do care equally about the activities of both of our children. We boast equally about both of them, we celebrate both equally, and we will do everything in our power to remind her of that when she needs reminding (or him as he gets older too).
The question of having a favorite child was never a question in our mind. We were prepared for that question, and to this day have not wavered on our choice to treat both of our children equally (because honestly, how could we not?)