It’s the question being asked this week, after research published by the University of California showed that 70% of parents do favour one child over the others.
Obviously, if I really did have a favourite child, I wouldn’t write it here, in case the other two read it in years to come. (And even if they didn’t, it would hardly be fair to say it behind their backs.) And of course, like most parents, I have a favourite child most days, it just depends on the day and the mood and who has broken my spirit and who has patched me back up.
This morning, the one who is usually still in bed five minutes before it’s time to leave was first up. Her normal morning grogginess and early grumpiness replaced by a bright smile and chirpy charm. She helped me get her small brother ready, and was sitting in the car long before it was time to go. On the other hand, the one who is usually up with the lark couldn’t get herself moving at all this morning. “Can I have a hug?” I asked, as I do every day when I go in to wake her. “No, you’re crushing me, can you go back out mum,” was her reply. It went on from there – her uniform annoyed her, she couldn’t find her shoes, and then, worst thing ever – her sister smiled at her. “DON’T SMILE AT ME!” she said, storming down the stairs to have “NOTHING” for breakfast because nothing was any good. Meanwhile, the offending smiling child was busy getting breakfast for everyone. I’m not saying I liked one more than the other right then, but if they were in a competition for easiest child, the bookies would have had a clear favourite. And of course by the afternoon, the odds had changed entirely.
Apparently we are often most frustrated by those who are like us – we see our own failings and imperfections, and feel irritated. I do have one child who is very like me, and yes, she’s the one with whom I clash most often. But she’s also the one I ‘get’ – the one whose reactions I can predict. I can see where she’s coming from when it all goes wrong, and I can hold her hand and empathise.
I have another child who is incredibly easygoing almost all of the time, but when she gets cross, it’s out of the blue, and I don’t always know how to help her.
And I have a child who is utterly unpredictable, a constant handful, the hardest work – he drains my energy but is also often its source.
In a competition to choose the easiest or most challenging child, they’d all be favourites in both categories, on any given day.
But still. The research says parents have favourites, so it must be true for at least those 384 families in California. Perhaps it depends on what favourite means? Is it the one you connect with, the one you like spending time with, the one you can rely on, the one who is easiest, the one you just ‘get’?
If so, I can see that parents might pick one child over another. But if it’s about love – which one you love the most – then no, I’m guessing that most of us love them all equally. Just like in my own family growing up, there are no favourites.
(Right dad… right?)