Playing Favorites

Image by Rusty Ross, via Flickr

I can’t be the only parent who lives in dread of playing favorites.

Especially of having a “favorite child.”

The online “soundtrack” of parenting reflections has presented me more than once with the theory that you butt heads with the child who resembles you most. But I think this is only true for certain personality types. If you are a strong-willed individual, committed to your own opinions above the approval of others, whose vision of the world is so clear that you can’t always put yourself in others’ shoes—if you have a child who mirrors you in these attributes, yes, you are almost certain to butt heads.

But if you are an introverted, deeply analytical puzzler who is very sensitive to the approval and opinions of others, and who values getting along more than getting your own way? If you have a child who mirrors you in these attributes, you’re not going to butt heads. You’re going to recognize each other as kindred spirits.

And if you have one child who completely befuddles you, because none of their choices make any sense to you as a person who values cooperation and compromise, you are going to struggle more to show that child love in the way he or she will recognize it.

I do not accept, however, that this constitutes playing favorites. Having such a child requires a parent to expend far more mental, emotional and spiritual energy trying to work out the puzzle that is that child, to figure out how to speak to and guide that child’s soul, and help them feel that they are loved. Far more than the children you just “get” instinctively. It’s way more work, and you might not always do it well, but the commitment is real and so is the love behind it.