When I was in school, I had a friend whose father preferred his sister to him. The reason: the father expected his daughter to cheer and the son to play football. Unfortunately for the son, he was barely over five feet tall. My friend could never get over the fact that he wasn’t acceptable to his father simply because of his height.
As babies, my boys were very similar – so similar that it is difficult to remember what our oldest and youngest liked as babies. Sure, the older one liked to sleep more and the younger one liked balls more, but overall they were both very calm babies who both were very good sleepers. We’ve raised them essentially the same – but as older kids, changes have emerged. The older is extremely cerebral; the younger extremely social. As I talk to other parents, many of them have indicated that they have an unofficial favorite child. I am proud to say that, though our children go through phases of liking one parent or the other better, I have never had a “favorite.” If I ever had a favorite, the status didn’t last more than a couple hours before the other one would do something really cute or helpful.
Our youngest has developed delayed speech. He is only three, but while he doesn’t talk much he is one of the social leaders of his class. The oldest still needs to work on interacting in a group, but is doing 90-piece jigsaw puzzles independently and works on activity books for kindergarteners while he’s only in preschool. How could we possibly have a favorite amongst those two options? It’s like saying you prefer drinking coffee more than you like cookies. Each person serves their own, independent purpose that can’t be compared with anyone else.
The first line of most parenting books I have read is something akin to: don’t compare your children. If you do, it’s not only detrimental to the “non-preferred” child; but it is just as bad for the “preferred” child. As parents, our job is to attempt to get our children ready for the real world and having a favorite one does exactly the opposite. We don’t have a favorite son, but sometimes they have a favorite parent, but it’s our job to be certain that mom and dad are on the same page so that things are consistent and they, regardless of who they may like more at the moment, know things will be the same.
A version of this first appeared on Daddy Mojo.