When I was pregnant with my daughter I took a pre-natal yoga class. The instructor asked us to share our fears about motherhood and I remember one woman, who was due with her second, saying that she was worried she wouldn’t have enough love to go around. She was so enamored with her first child and hoped she would feel that same connection with her second. I recall thinking it was a strange sentiment. While I didn’t know much about being a mom at the time, I figured that our hearts are quite capable of loving all of our children equally. Now that I’m a mom of two, I can say with 100% certainty that turned out to be true. I think the heart is capable of an infinite amount of love. Because if I had more kids I know I’d love them just as much as my son and daughter. Often times you hear people talk about playing favorites. That they secretly prefer one kid more. While there are unique aspects I love about each of my children, I could never say that I love one more than the other. I’m all about equality.
But my daughter would beg to differ. And while in theory it’s not true, I can understand the perception. Because the thing is, I spend more time with my son. I know it and she knows it. I’m not saying it’s right, but the reason is simple: he needs me more. He’s younger, demanding, less mature, and very attached to me. I don’t secretly relish in this fact and to be honest it makes me sad when he gets upset if it’s my husband turn to do something. I thought this was a sentiment that only my husband and I shared, until last week, when I realized the impact it was having on my daughter.
She and I were supposed to meet my mom to shop for a new winter coat. I didn’t bill it as a girl’s day but that’s essentially what it was. When the time came for us to leave my son said he wanted to come with. When I said no a meltdown ensued. He gripped my hand and wouldn’t let go, tears streaming down his face. He was hysterical because he wanted to come too. I warned him it would be boring but he didn’t care. He simply wanted to be with me. How could I say no to that? So we all went and it was relatively fine—as fine as shopping can be when you have a 7 year-old, a 5 year-old, and an impatient husband in tow. When we got home there was little downtime before dinner, baths, and bedtime. I bathed my son as is customary, and was putting him to bed when my daughter demanded that I help her. I said I needed a minute, which was more like ten. Well, that led to her going on a thirty minute tirade about how it’s not fair how I spend all my time with Dylan. Normally I’d chalk it up to drama, but there was truth to her words. She’s the easy-going, older, more mature child, so I find myself asking my husband to help her while I tend to my son. A lot.
I’m always preaching about equality, making sure if one gets an extra treat so does the other. But when it comes to the things that matter most, like my time, my actions are not backing up my words.
I knew the scales were unbalanced but I didn’t realize she knew it. We talked about it for a while and I apologized and said I’d try harder. That wasn’t enough and she kept grilling me, wanting a repercussion if I didn’t abide by my rule. I guess I’ve done a good job at instilling that actions have consequences. But I couldn’t think of anything other than for her to let me know when it happens (as though I need reminding).
So I’m making a conscious effort to make things more balanced. I recognize there will be times when the scales will tip one way or the other. And I know it’s important that kids learn how to deal with disappointment and not always getting what they want. But I need to take some responsibility as well and make sure I’m not always catering to the child who speaks the loudest. As parents all we can do is the best that we can. So I’ll try to be better. I love my kids equally and I feel terribly guilty that she thinks I’m playing favorites. My kids are my most favorite people in the world. Both of them.