I love my children but sometimes it is difficult to like them all. I have three children ages one, five and eight . Let me begin this by saying that I love all of them. Honestly and truly. However, depending on the stage in life, it would be a lie for me to say that I always like them equally. Right now, for example, my eight-year-old son has started to know it all. He likes to tell me how to do everything from driving a car to making pancakes. None of this is unusual or unexpected. In fact, it’s typical of an eight-year-old boy. But there is something to be said about having a little know-it-all in the house. Frankly, it’s irritating. In contrast, my five-year-old daughter is in a very cute, snuggly stage in life. She is very interested in showing me her art, her gymnastic skills, and her ability to pick out a wacky outfit. Right now, she is melting my heart every day.

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With the two in the room, it’s easy to want to spend more time with my daughter than my son. There seems to be, at least for me as a father, a difference between love and like. I can look at my children, their cute smiles, their little hands and feet, and know without a doubt, that I love them. But there are times that I don’t really like them. There are times when my son is so frustrating that I want to pull my hair out. There are times when my toddler keeps me up in the night for several hours, and I can’t help but feel bitter the next day at work because I’m completely exhausted. Anyone with children, I assume, can completely relate to these feelings. But here is the kicker. I feel guilty about all of it. I feel like I should love and like all of my children equally all the time.

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But some days, some months, some seasons, I just don’t. I never let on, mind you. I never let them know that one kid is my favourite and the other is driving me crazy. I am often left with this question: Is it OK to secretly have a favourite child? I posed this question on my blog’s Facebook page and ended up with a range of responses. Some parents said that their favourite is the kid who’s sleeping at the moment. Some said that they intentionally tell their children which one is their favourite. Others said that all commenters were horrible parents for even thinking about having a favourite. But most, I would say, felt the same as me. They seemed to like one child more than the other depending on development and stage in life. One comment I found particularly enlightening.

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“My son is going through a rough patch making interactions with him very stressful while my daughter is a ray of sunshine. It’s all about the amount of stress involved in the different phases of each child, not so much a matter of favourites as it is the instinct to want to preserve sanity by limiting exposure to the stressor. Lol! It’s all just a big rotation … ” Although I admit comments like the one above made me feel less alone, it didn’t make me feel less guilty. And when I think about that, I am reminded of an essay published last year by Danielle and Astro Teller titled, “How American Parenting Is Killing The American Marriage”. In it, the authors argue that parenting in America has been elevated to the level of religion. “Another sign of the parenthood religion is that it has become totally unacceptable in our culture to say anything bad about our children, let alone admit that we don’t like them all of the time … Children have the same range of positive and negative characteristics as adults, and the personalities of some children are poorly matched with those of their parents …

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Much as parents love their children and have their best interests at heart … they don’t always like them. That guy at the office who everyone thinks is a jerk was a kid once upon a time, and there’s a pretty good chance that his parents also noticed that he could be a jerk. They just weren’t allowed to say so.” Although this is a candid take on playing favourites, there is some truth to it. Whereas I understand that my irritation with my children has to do with age and development, I know parents with grown children who are so far from the tree it’s difficult to imagine them being related, let alone getting along. I have to assume that in these odd parent-child pairings there was some turning point in the relationship where parent and child realised they just didn’t like each other. But right now, with my own young children, I have a difficult time ever seeing that happen.

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This really is the power of children. They have been granted the power of irresistible cuteness, and it is hard not to want to hold them. Perhaps part of my problem is that I am still a young father with young children. I haven’t seen the full scope of parenting. But what I can say is that I often don’t get along with my own mother. I feel confident that she loves me, but I don’t know if she likes me. We are very different people and often our conversations are more cordial than enjoyable. When I think about that, I feel a deep pit in my gut, wondering if I will one day have the same strained relationship with my children. Will they eventually dislike me? Will I eventually dislike them? Is this a normal parenting trajectory that, according to social parenting standards, should never be admitted to or discussed? I don’t know, but what I do know is that all of this makes me think of the idiom, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”

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There are times when my children frustrate me. There are times when they are so under my skin that I just want to spend more time with one of my other children. And honestly, I think that’s just the normal pains that come with living, caring, and teaching another person. So much of parenting is about looking past the frustration to realise that you do, indeed, want the best for your children, even during those times when you don’t necessarily get along. This is the true bond between parent and child that is so difficult to define and is often described as unconditional love. None of this means that I don’t love my children. What it means is that I love them enough to acknowledge my frustrations and keep trying. Keep teaching. Keep loving. Even when, frankly, one of my children is driving me nuts.


By Clint Edwards from Theage.com.au – Note: Clint Edwards is the author of No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog.