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I love both my boys, with all my heart, exactly, precisely, and totally equally. Time magazine says that’s a load of hooey and then proceeds to rub it in my face by backing it up with research (65% of moms and 70% of dads show favoritism for a child -- usually the older one!) and quoting scientists who say it’s actually biological to favor one of your spawn over the others. What?!?
After reading this, I thought long and hard about it. Did I prefer one kid to the other? Well, my oldest is easier but that’s because he’s older, almost 5 years old. My younger one is in the terrible threes (way worse than the twos, as we all know.) His personality is more defiant than my rule-following older son, but he’s also more friendly and outgoing, a total cuddle monkey. My older son is gifted, while my younger son is mainly interested in snacks and…Ugh! Did I just show favoritism? I've often wondered if I used up all my patience with Drew, my older one, before little Leo came along, and that’s why I’m so quick to snap with him -- but maybe I've actually just been playing favorites?
I believe that I truly do love them the same. But I also see that there are times when I prefer the company of one over the other. And that can change day by day, often moment by moment. My friend Amy put it into a perspective I can get behind (even if science says otherwise). “I don't think it has anything to do with having a favorite, but more to do with having a connection. I always thought I was a terrible mom because I felt more connected to my first born son for the first couple years after my youngest girl was born. But now she’s has her own personality, I can honestly say I don’t have a favorite.”
One small piece of good news for those of us newly ravaged by guilt is that favoritism can ebb and flow. You may favor Child A in at the dinner table when he's charming and well-behaved, but Child B when you're on vacation because he's so much fun. As long as you’re giving each kid ample props and attention regularly, they won’t be too damaged in the long run. The other important thing to know if you're trying to prevent future trips to the therapist, is that even if you have a favorite (and allegedly you will), is that you should be sure to maintain the perception (read: lie) that you do favor them both equally. And odds are, when you get down to it, you really do love the stuffing out of both of them.