Loving (and Liking) Your Children
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.