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Loving (and Liking) Your Children

February 10, 2011

I had quite an epiphany watching one of my favorite television shows, House, the other night. In the episode, Dr. Lisa Cuddy is talking to her hard-ass mother, asking mom why she was so tough on her growing up and why is mom closer with her sister than her.

The mom (perfectly played by Candice Bergen) replied to Cuddy, saying something along the lines of, I love you both. But I have more in common with your sister. I like her more than you.

I was really struck by this piece of brilliant and honest writing. Haven’t we all (especially those of us with siblings) wondered if dad likes this sister more than me; or why mom is closer to the other one. I think it must be an inherent family dynamic of raising more than one child.

I am the oldest of four daughters. I’m the classic first-born. Growing up, my parents were strict with me and had high expectations. I didn’t make waves or cause trouble. I never wanted to disappoint my parents. I finished college, earned a master’s degree, and have been working professionally since I was in college when I bought my first car (which I made payments on, by the way).  I got married at 25. We’ve owned two homes, and now have one daughter. Even now – at 35 – I feel guilty if I rock the boat, or do something that’s not  characteristic of me as perceived by my family.

My sisters and I have many similarities, but we’re also quite different. Suffice it to say, they’re all good people with good hearts, funny, intelligent, and extremely talented. One of my sisters is very close with my dad. They’ve always been that way and I’m glad they have that relationship. But I have often wondered, Why doesn’t Dad talk to me like he talks to her?

So when I heard Elder Cuddy on House say those words about loving her children but liking one more than the other, I realized that’s what parents must feel.  For some reason, one child resonates more with a parent. Just like we’re attracted to some friends more than others.

It’s rare to hear that kind of brutal honesty (even in television) because no one wants to admit they may favor one child over another. It takes a brave person to say they may not like a family member. That doesn’t mean they don’t love or care about them.

Perhaps this is the reason I’m only focusing on one child. I can avoid even the prospect of inequity among siblings, and I don’t have to stress about not liking one child as much as the other. Of course, we may totally screw her up by concentrating fully on her. But I already feel guilt-ridden now because I like one of my dogs more than the other. I guess there’s no right or wrong answer. There’s just honesty. And love. And family.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2011 6:14 am

    Excellent post, Leah and yes…family dynamics can be hard. ;-( And you KNOW I {like} one of my pooches more…..;-)

    • leahsinger permalink
      February 11, 2011 10:44 pm

      You’re braver than me, Amy, in that you don’t feel bad for liking one of your pups more than the other. I still worry I’ll hurt my guy’s feelings. I guess it’s like kids — you love them differently and appreciate their unique qualities.

  2. Wendi permalink
    February 11, 2011 6:21 am

    When we were trying to get pregnant the second time around and even after I was pregnant I worried a lot about how it would work having more than one kid. How would I be able to divide my love, my attention. But once it happened, it really seemed silly that I ever worried about it. It was a natural thing. The same with adding a third kid (even accidentally). I love them all (and right now I mostly like them all, too – but of course, they do give me those moments of wavering). So don’t let that hold you back from having more kids.

    I don’t think I was perceptive enough as a kid to see any real divides in how my parents dealt with me and my sisters. Whenever one of us complained of something not being fair between us, my dad always said that we don’t necessarily get the same treatment, but it would always even out in the end. And he also always threw in the “nobody said life was fair” adage. He was right – of course you have to treat the kids differently because of what is age appropriate – and I see that it gets harder with the younger ones than the oldest because they clamor so much for what the older one has that you go ahead and give in and let them have things sooner than what you might’ve with the oldest.

    • leahsinger permalink
      February 11, 2011 10:46 pm

      Thanks, Wendi. Isn’t it interesting how your perspective changes when you were a kid and now? It’s like you can understand your parents better and then not at the same time.

  3. December 27, 2011 9:14 pm

    I saw the same episode and ever since then i cant get that quote out of my head. i am in a similar situation…but now that me and my siblings have children i feel like grandchildren are being favored….i feel so crappy thinking it…but its just how i feel….do you think a person gets over the favoritism problem?

    • December 27, 2011 9:48 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad that episode resonated with you too. I see the same thing with the grandchildren in my family too! Seems like the grandchildren are the only ones that matter. I’m sure that’s not really true. But it certainly feels that way a lot. I’m not sure if the favoritism factor ever goes away. Thanks for writing.

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