The other day, Kate wrote a post on Being Pregnant in which she openly admitted that she loved her 20-month-old son “just a little more” than her 3-year-old daughter. Her essay read like a collection of deeply private thoughts which had accidentally found their way to the most public of forums. In them, she painted an idealistic picture of her son which contrasted starkly with the defiant one she offered of her daughter.
And while I’m not here to lambast Kate for publicly comparing and contrasting her children, I am here to offer five reasons why I would never do the same.
But before I do, it must be noted that I respect the fact that Kate’s piece was so brutally honest. What’s more, a lot of people could relate to it, or so I’m led to believe by the astonishing number of pageviews it received, not to mention the 1,700 folks who clicked on the Facebook “like” icon.
That said, I couldn’t relate to it. I don’t have a favorite child. Still, I admired Kate’s post, if for no other reason than the guts it took to publish it. For she had to know that despite the number of folks who would appreciate her candor, at least as many, if not more, would be outraged by thoughts such as this one:
“There are moments in my least sane and darkest thoughts when I think it wouldn’t be so bad if I lost my daughter, as long as I never had to lose my son (assuming crazy, dire, insane circumstances that would never actually occur in real life).”
But, again, such a post is not one that I would, or even could ever write. And here are five reasons why:
- 1. It’s Not About Me: Parenting is the most selfless institution in the world. And it’s the parents’ job to put their children’s interests before their own. Forever. Which means that even if I were to have a favorite child and even if I were to want to share that fact with the world, as a parent, I must first ask myself if admitting such would be in my other children’s best interests. It’s my belief that it would not be. Besides, penning an essay that continuously used the word “I” to describe the pecking order of my affection would be an act that’s all about me. But it’s not about me. It’s about them.
- 2. Snapshots Don’t Tell the Entire Story: I learned long ago that it’s dangerous to put too much stock in a snapshot of any situation if for no other reason than a snapshot is nothing more than one moment in time. But the relationships I share with my children are ever-changing, constantly evolving ones filled with countless ups and downs. Therefore, I believe it would be unwise for me to take a snapshot of such a relationship and hold it up as an absolute truth for the entire world to see. Especially when that “truth” has the potential to cause emotional harm to my other children.
- 3. Other, Less Damaging Ways to Express Such Thoughts: You know what feels good? Getting something off your chest. You know what else feels good? Making brave admissions that might help others — even yourself. So I could see a scenario where a parent might want to admit loving one child more than another in hopes of freeing him or herself from a burdensome secret. Or as a way of helping others (perhaps even him- or herself) become better parents. But if I ever found myself in that situation, I would hope to remember my first point and put my children’s interests before mine. For if I did, I would see the potential damage that could be done and that would compel me to find an anonymous way to reveal my secret. Simply put, if I were convinced that I had to share my secret because of all the good it would do, I could still accomplish that good without attaching real names and real feelings to it.
- 4. The Sibling Relationships: Of all the relationships I’ve witnessed, few are as special as the ones some of my adult friends share with their siblings. One reason Caroline and I go to such painstaking lengths to be as fair as possible to all four of our children is that we don’t ever want to be a contributing factor in them growing apart. If that winds up happening, so be it. But we don’t want any of that blood on our hands. And if I were to ever openly profess favoritism, not only would I be concerned about the ones who weren’t my “favorite,” I would also be concerned that I may have damaged their sibling relationships.
- 5. Do Unto Others: None of my children have ever asked me to blog about them. As such, I have to go the extra mile in remembering their feelings as they pertain to whatever it is I decide to write about them. And when doing that, it’s best to keep the Golden Rule in mind. Words could never describe how hurt I would be if, 18 years from now, one of my children used a highly visible platform to articulate disparaging thoughts about me in an essay that admitted in no uncertain terms that he or she loved Caroline more than me. And if that kind of thing would hurt me beyond words, I have to assume it would hurt my children beyond words as well.
It’s funny. The last time my wife was pregnant, we made a promise to each other to not compare our triplets to one another. Not to any significant degree, at least. Even if one were way “behind” the others, we promised to remember that we’d never even know the difference were it not for the other two.
Now, as we prepare for the arrival of our fifth child, I’m reminded once again that, for me, comparing and contrasting my children is not the way to go — especially publicly. That’s not to say that folks don’t have the right to author brave and articulate essays which do just that. For, indeed, they do.
But that is to say that I could never do it.