Editorial: The child you like less is a reflection of you

How often have we asked kids which parent they prefer. “Do you love mumma more or daddy?” And the poor babies, in their stubborn insistence that love is an equal thing, say they love both equally. No matter how much you push them, most kids will never ever pick one parent over the other. Unless, of course, they are pissed off with you. In which case every other parent is better than you.

But speak to parents and ask them if they have a favourite child, and they’ll look at you all shocked and offended. Push them a little more; or maybe get to know them a little more and you will see it come out in slow, small statements. “My younger one is so much easier to hug.” “My older one is so much easier to talk to.” “I am a much better parent when only one of my kids is at home.” “I just can’t seem to feel the same closeness to my son as I feel with my daughter, even though he is easier to manage.” Prod them just that much more and they’ll tell you they much prefer one child over the other, but they love them both, of course. Having one favourite child over the other is common. That doesn’t mean you love that child more. In my experience, what that translates into is that you get along with one child better than the other. That you seem to understand one better than the other. But most important thing of all is that the child that you cannot get close to, or the child that irks you more than the other is almost an exact replica of who you are today. The child you cannot hug warmly and naturally is a reflection of who you were, and therefore are afraid will turn out exactly like you.

It’s a hard realisation to come to. But it’s a truth that brings us to another truth. That not many of us like ourselves. If we did, we would love to see our own qualities reflected in our child. We fear greatly that all the things that we do not like about ourselves will be magnified and replicate themselves in our children, which means they might have the same pitfalls that we have taken. Which means that they may make the same mistakes we have made. That they will face the same heartaches we have faced. But worst of all, they will feel the same sense of not fitting in that we feel — that terrible awkwardness, that terrifying feeling of being less than someone else, that depressive impression that we may never reach our potential.

I find it further difficult when it is a boy girl combination that you have at home. For instance, in my house, unknowingly, I hold my daughter to a higher standard than my son. Sub-consciously, I find that I let my son be less than 100 percent because I honestly don’t expect that much from the male of our species. But my daughter? Well, she’s got to be perfect, hasn’t she? She’s got to play sport, read well,  learn music, dance, use cutlery well, show interest in all kinds of things — the list is endless and tiresome. And as a consequence, I am harsher on her when she fails my expectations. This continued till one day when I saw her hold her fork and knife in the weirdest way possible. I had been showing her how to do it right for ages and she kept holding it weirdly. She, all of seven, looked at me and said, “Can I just enjoy my food?” It was then that I realised I was perpetrating on her all the things mothers have perpetrated on their daughters in order to groom them for a world that is harshly unfair on them. To groom them in order so they can fight and carve their own niche. In the process, all those mothers had created daughters who were perfectionists and beating themselves up over not getting every last bit of adulthood right.

When I saw that the very things I hated in myself were manifesting in my daughter too, I started to be even more exacting. But when she guilelessly asked me if she could just enjoy her food that day, I knew I had to stop. She is never going to be me: her brain, her circumstances, her world all different. Her parents are different and therefore, the mistakes that her parents will make will be different and not the ones mine made. It was that day that I noticed I talked to her more kindly, I lost my temper at her less, I grabbed her and put her on my lap more often. I learnt to be warmer with my firstborn who chisles me every day into the mother I need to become.

On that note, of becoming mothers, we did a warm, heart-rending story about what marriages can be like after there have been miscarriages. If you’ve been in that boat, you need to read that one. The other story I’d really like you all to read is this one about kids who have spectacles deal with stuff and how you as a parent can get it right, if your child has been told she needs glasses. Anyhow, before I get sentimental about my very sparkly offspring, let me tell you a little about the research that recently showed that high school toppers didn’t amount to much in their later life. Our writer Anuradha Sainath’s interview with Shweta Basu Prasad seems to echo a similar sentiment. Anuradha also brought Raveena Tandon back into our lives (we miss her so!) with questions about how she feels about everyone from Kareena to Beyonce flaunting their baby bump. Read what Raveena had to say here. And finally, sex therapy is finally a thing in India! Black Lace this week talked to a couple who opted for sex therapy and how it changed their life for the better. Also attached is a handy list of therapists around the country.

Until next week.

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