Before we had kids, I teased my husband that he would be wrapped around his little girl’s finger. I was a daddy’s girl, and I thought my husband would be no match for his sweet daughter.
Well, the joke is on me. I’m the one who spoils our daughter. She is funny and charming and fearless. She knows how to work the system, and I let her get away with murder – things I would never tolerate from my son.
There are many rational reasons that I give for this behavior. As a second-time mom, I’m much more relaxed; I don’t stress over every misdeed. Since she is a girl, I am more attuned to protecting and nurturing her independence and confidence. I’m just busier than I was with my son at this age – I have to pick my battles just to keep life moving forward. It also doesn’t help that she’s the baby of the family.
But the truth is that we just have a special connection. Whether it’s gender or personality or interests or some mysterious combination, I’m not sure.
I love both my children more than I ever imagined possible. I would, quite literally, give my life for them. But I find myself choosing to spend more time with my daughter. We talk more and share more laughs. I hesitate to say it out loud, but she’s my favorite.
Research shows that I’m not alone; about 80 percent of parents have a favorite child.
Psychologists say that my kids are impacted less by my favoritism and more by their perceptions of my feelings. Unfortunately, those perceptions can have very real consequences.
Alex Jensen, a psychologist with Brigham Young University found that teens who thought they were getting less favored treatment were more likely to get into trouble, even if the parents were actually being fair. They were more likely to drink alcohol, use cigarettes, smoke marijuana or even used harder drugs.
According to Jensen, the more that the teenagers felt they were being slighted, the riskier their behavior became.
Fortunately, there is hope for my kids and me. Jensen also found that in strong families, the link between the perception of inequality and risky behavior was broken. A close-knit family with secure relationships seems to mitigate the dangers of inequality.
So, instead of beating myself up over having a favorite, I’ll focus on loving both my kids and nurturing our entire family. On creating happy times for everyone and making sure they both know how special and important they are. That’s my job as a mom.
If that doesn’t work, there’s always therapy. Lots of therapy.
After all, I’m an only child, and I don’t really understand all this sibling stuff.