When both my kids think I’m playing favourites with the other

When both my kids think I'm playing favourites with the other

I have finally come to a point where I want to lovingly wash my mother’s feet every day of the year for the rest of my life and maybe build her a temple. Why? Because my 8-year-old and 7-year-old have started, on an almost-daily basis, the, “You love her more. You love him more,” phase.


Every time they say that, sheer panic grips me, followed by the cold fingers of horror, and then a quiet laugh from the bowels of my karma, whispering, “What goes around comes around.” My poor mother still has to occasionally listen to my brother and I (who are in our 30s, thank you very much) tell her that she loved the other more, that the other was always preferred, that the other is treated more gently. I don’t know how she continues to want to be on the same planet as us, leave alone love us the way she does.


Last night, when I was getting dinner together, my 8 y.o. wailed that everyone loves her younger brother more. The younger brother sat atop the kitchen counter munching on an orange, seemingly oblivious to this. My instant reaction was to say, “No, I love you both equally.” But I’ve realised those are just words to a kid (many times to an adult, too), so I held back the instinct to say so. I asked her, “What makes you say that? Where is the proof for it?” It’s at times like these, when I am digging my own grave, that I wished my memory was much better.  You see, when she rattles off a list of your crimes, and you have a terrible memory, you wish you video taped your entire life and carved your heart out on a plate so you can tell this little smart mouth that she was wrong. And you know what’s more ironic? My 8 y.o., my first-born, my little girl is actually my favourite. I love both my kids equally, but I kind of get starry-eyed and go a little soft in the head when I think of her.


I quickly sidestepped her accusations at me because I couldn’t come up with a single instance to prove her wrong that wouldn’t make my son feel like he wasn’t loved as much as her. I patiently tried to undo each impression she had. I was close to the end of my tether when she got bored and quickly moved to talking about caterpillars that she found in the peas earlier when we were shelling them. I’ve never been more thankful for caterpillars, ever.


I shouldn’t have bothered trying to spare my son’s feelings that evening because this morning at breakfast: same situation, same location, roles reversed. My 7 y.o. felt less loved. And I repeated that exercise with him, of asking him what made him say so and then trying prove him wrong. I tried telling him what it means to have two different people sharing a parent and how it’s not always possible that both are right, and both get their way. It doesn’t make me love them less. I have no clue whether it worked or not. I’ll know in a day or two when they come back and say again, “You love (sibling) more than me!”

After I left work, I was reviewing my own actions and wondering what the best way to react to that accusation was. Or was I overthinking it? Should I just ignore it and move on because every set of siblings says the same thing? In the midst of so many questions, I found that what I was doing was reacting to things, that I was firefighting. What I needed instead was to act. Proving to one child that s/he is as loved as the other, giving them examples of it was just trying to bandage a larger situation. I am not sure what that situation is yet, by the way, but I am assuming it is
something to do with being inherently loved. I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no way I am ever going to prove them wrong; if they feel less loved than the other, the only thing I can do is teach them this isn’t a contest, that one will always do something better than the other and I am likely to acknowledge that each time it happens. And then I can focus on one child at a time and make sure they know that I love the living daylights out of them. My gut says if a child feels loved enough on her own, she’s very unlikely to compare how loved she feels in relation to a sibling.


But hey, this is parenting we are talking about. Not rearing a plant. And because of that, I don’t know a single parent who knows what they’re doing. We are all just winging it. Until the next time an offspring says that you love one child more than them, you do your best. When you hear that, over and over and over again, you stuff your face with chocolate. Or reach for a glass of wine. Unless, of course, you have better suggestions for me.