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Can You Have a Favorite Kid?

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Guest blogger Jessica Katz: When I had my daughter, I fell in love. We did everything together and I learned everything about being a mom with her. I remember telling her that no matter how many kids I had, she would always be my favorite. There was a bond I would neverhave again with another child. She was the only one -- the center of my universe.

mom and kids
When I got pregnant with my second child, I got scared that I would not be able to love two kids. I loved my dog until my daughter came, and now I am not that into the dog. My girlfriend without kids said, "But you love your Gucci bag as much as your Marc Jacobs bag" ... but it wasn't quite the same thing. I only wanted my daughter's pictures on the wall, my daughter snuggling in bed. How would I find room to love two? 

When I was pregnant with my first child, I kept a detailed pregnancy journal, and I still keep one for her wherein I profess my love for her. With the second, I barely remember to write in the journal, let alone talk to the baby in my belly. I confided my fears to my mom. I told her that I was obsessed with my daughter and I feared that I would never love another child the same -- she was my favorite. My mom told me that it was a fear every parent faced. And the truth is, there is a special bond with your first. You learn love in a whole new way when you have a child, and it is that first child who teaches you that. 
I am the oldest, and I know I am my mom's favorite (mostly because my sister and my mom do not get along as well). I represented a really good time in my mom's life, and she often tells me she should have stopped after me. It isn't really a secret. My sister recently told me, "You're mom's favorite." She wasn't upset over it; it was just a fact to her. Every relationship with a parent in unique and some bonds are stronger than others. We have favorite parents and grandparents, so why shouldn't they have favorite kids? 

As long as a parent is not overtly favoring a child and ignoring another, there really isn't a problem. You can't control that you don't have the same time and attention to give to a second or third child as your first. You jumped at every whimper with your first baby, but by the fourth, you don't even hear them scream. It happens to the best of us. But as long as you love your children -- favorite or not -- everything will be OK.

next: Spice It Up
27 comments so far | Post a comment now
courtney November 8, 2010, 10:55 AM

wow. At first I would have said that we love all our children the same, we just might get along better with one more than the other. But your mom saying she should have stopped after one child, is actually being verbally abusive. It’s no different than saying I wish you hadn’t been born. And you are okay with it because you are the favored child, but if you were to see this type of behavior pointed at your kids, from someone that is supposed to love, you wouldn’t be so glib about it. You are also confusing being a new and nervous parent as being a more loving parent, when it is not. And yes, I have more photos of my first, because I had more time, no other children to care for. And no your sister isn’t outwardly upset, but you really think that she goes home and thinks, how lucky she is to have her family? I guarantee that knowing she is not important or wanted has had an impact on her life and her view of herself. And to think otherwise is insensitivity on your part.

Jessica Nunemaker November 8, 2010, 11:30 AM

I absolutely disagree with this article. What kind of a mother tells her kid that she’s the favorite?

These are kids. Not handbags, shoes, or other throw-away items. They have different personalities and interests and hobbies…things that make them unique one moment or can drive us to tears the next.

I have two boys and no — I could not choose a favorite if my life depended on it.

All the little quirks that make them, THEM are things I dearly love. I enjoy the people who they are and celebrate the people that they will each become.

P.S. I enjoy our pets just as much as I ever did.

zandhmom November 8, 2010, 11:46 AM

Wow, I agree with the other two posters. I have 2 kids -1 boy and 1 girl - and they are as different as night and day! I couldn’t even begin to guess which one I might love more. Maybe the problem started with your mom making it known that you were the favorite. I have 3 other siblings and I have never felt that my mom had a favorite. I guess I’m the lucky one. Love doesn’t have to be divided up, it should be shared equally with ALL your children.

ammie November 8, 2010, 12:08 PM

I have to agree with the first two posters about almost everything. I have three kids boy, girl, and boy spaced 19 months apart. I couldn’t begin to choose a favorite. Yes, I have different relationships with each—because each of them is different and let’s me connect with them in different ways. There are times when one will exasperate or irritate me more than the other, but I sure don’t love them any less nor do I ever wish they hadn’t been born!

No, I don’t dote on our pets as much as I did before kids—I transferred most of that nurturing instinct to my children who demanded more time from me (and sure needed it more than those pets) but I can’t even begin to compare my children to my pets or an accessory or article of clothing. Children have favorite relatives because they form those attachments while they are young and immature and spend more time with one grandparent or aunt than the other. A favorite parent? Please! I never worried that I wouldn’t love my children enough—I worried whether I would be a good enough parent and make the right decisions, but love? Never a fear. Ever.

And I like to think I’m pretty empathetic and can place myself in most anyone’s shoes and see their point of view but this taxes even my abilities.

Christina November 8, 2010, 6:04 PM

Ok, glad to know it wasn’t just me who had a strong reaction to this piece. I grew up VERY much aware that my younger brother was my mother’s favorite. And it sucked. Then she divorced my dad, so I didn’t even have that to fall back on. There is nothing quite like living in a household where you are clearly considered second-best. Not only does it impact, in a very real way, the opportunities you are given, as the available resources tend to be spent on the favored sibling, it impacts pretty much every relationship you have since you never get that experience of unconditional love.

Cristina November 8, 2010, 10:14 PM

I’m opposed to this particular article, but not opposed completely to the… subject matter.

No offense “guest blogger Jessica Katz”, but you presented this discussion in a really crappy way and you should seriously reconsider writing it. Not because it’s “insensitive”, but because there really is no discussion which impresses upon the reader other than you are a jerk mom. Hey, I mean if you can confess that you favor your first child more than your soon-to-be-born child, I can call you a jerk. All’s fair. You should have expected it.

However, I am here to present it in a different way, same disccusion.

It’s true. You do prefer one child over another when it comes to certain things. Parents pick which children to discipline, which children to take with them to the grocery store, which children to put into certin sports. There is always a “preference”, but this doesn’t mean you ‘love’ a child any less. As some other responses said, each child is unique. As you mentioned heavily in your article, you weigh your experiences with your children as your means of picking a “favorite”.

However, be assured that one day your older one will grow up and move on, and you’ll be “stuck” with your second favorite having all those “one-one-one experiences”. I wouldn’t put the cart before the horse on the experience debate.

Besides, it is widely documented that the oldest child typically puts ones parents into medical care, but the second pays for it. Hmm, good to know where my taxes will be going forty years from now. I hope your second oldest doesn’t get your outlook on the value of family, for your sake.

In any case, there was a story to go along with this. My mother had three children: a boy when she was eighteen, a girl when she was twenty-three, and another girl (me) when she was thirty-eight.

There was a time when it was just my brother and her (going to clear the air, my “biological” father is not my brother’s “biological father — don’t go assumming my dad was a dirt bag — my dad adopted my brother when he was two and never looked back). My brother is probably the most terrifying miltiary man/ jerk/ momma’s boy you will ever meet. He was the most difficult child to bring up, but my parents stuck through it and now he’s actually a good guy (aside from the cocky personality), and I love him to pieces.

My sister is the sweetheart, and lives the life most closely associated with my mother. She has two children, has the same hobbies as my mother, and she meets with my mom every day to just talk and have dinner. My sister still lives in our hometown (as does my brother), and is happily married to a man who would bend over backwards for my father.

And then there is me, who is secretly the person my mom would have been if she hadn’t had my brother at an early age. I moved out right after high school to a large city, studied art, and live from paycheck to paycheck on the most trendy and experience lifestyle I can manage. I’m sweet like my sister, but I can also be a bit feisty and opinionated; I’m most vocal and critical of stupidity (*cough**cough*). In any case, I fight with my mom (which my brother and sister NEVER do), I left home(granted, I’m still extremely close with my family), and I didn’t go into the public healthcare field (mom was a nurse, sister is an occupational therapist, brother is a warden, dad is a psychiatrist).

However different I am (and I clearly do not have the same “mommy and me time” as my siblings did), my mom still feels a close kinship with me. She sees me as the baby and the woman she thought she might have become.

If that’s not a ridiculous amount of information for you, then I’m not sure that anyone is going to get through to you.

In any case, she doesn’t love any of us more than one another. Trust me, we’ve all pryed, and it’s a running joke (mostly because there is no real way to compare the three of us — other than the fact that we all share O blood types and jet-black/brown hair).

She prefers us at times: Mike when she wants to be humored, Andrea when she wants comfort, and me when she wants to be serious. We all know “how much” our mother loves us, and when she needs time with one of us. And we all cater to that, because we know that her love is unwaivering. (Trust me; she got drunk calls confessing way too much from my brother while he was in the military, she dealt with my sister’s God-awful years as a mis-guided teenage “boriqua wannabe”, and she and my dad bailed me out of a 2,000 dollar debt when my timing belt on my car gave out and I secretly put it on a credit card).

When you know that love doesn’t change, then preference isn’t an issue. I wouldn’t send my brother into the trenches to deal with a sappy, lovey, dovey mom (my sister’s expertise), and they certainly wouldn’t send my sister into an “existential crisis” ordeal (I can deal with that).

In any case, there are three basic points to this story:

1. How you got preference and love mixed up I’ll never know. Must be that “I-should-hav-stopped-after-you” mom of yours; it sounds sarcastic, but in fact I’m being sincere and honest.

2. Your child will know “how much” you love them in comparison to your other children. Trust me, then preference will really rear its ugly head back on you. Also, it’d be quite ironic if your second child turned out to be exactly like you. Exactly. Let’s hope it’s your first-born to pick the elderly care center.

3. You heavily play the experience card without really understanding that experience spans a lifetime. One day that precious first-born (who must be a bizarre Shirley Temple/ Baby Jesus hybrid in your eyes) will leave the nest and want a life seperate of you, leaving you with your “second favorite”. You’re going to have experiences with that child too whether you like it or not (Granted, you seem like someone who might pull the boarding school card).

In any case, those lone years later on could be that life-changing “Oh-my-God, I-love-my-second-child-just-as-much” epiphany. Don’t put the cart before the horse.

Because like I said, your child will know. And I’m afraid that by the time you are given the opportunity to venture to the “dark side” (aka, bonding with your second child — gasp).

I also love that whole “bond with the first born thing”. What if this is your last child? Shouldn’t you have a “bond with your youngest”?

I love how you say if we can have favorite of other things, we can have favorite kid. Great validation.

“Sorry, son. If it means anything, if I couldn’t have had a favorite set of grandparents, you’d be on par with your sister in my eyes.”

In any case, way to fall in love with your daughter. By the way mom-o-the-year, falling in love and loving are two different things.

Louise November 9, 2010, 3:54 AM

I wonder if it’s a good idea to tell your firstborn that you’ll always love her the most… It is making her aware that her mother doesn’t love her children alike, and unconditionally. She’s number one, but it also raises awareness that she COULD ‘fall back’ to be number two. Besides that, you cannot even know befor you have had the other kid.

Louise November 9, 2010, 3:58 AM

…And what if your daughter tells her younger sibling one day that you’ve told her that you’ll always lover HER the most? Now how painful is that to the younger one?

I appreciate you bring up this controversial subject and speak about it in all honesty, but I really think you made a bad choice in imposing this ‘superiority’ to your daughter.

Lilith November 9, 2010, 5:23 AM

A poster above said “you presented this discussion in a really crappy way” and I agree with that.
It’s almost like you’re talking yourself into loving your firstborn more. How does your second baby even stand a chance with an attitude like that? Why did you get pregnant at all the second time when you apparently knew that they will play fiddle to your daughter?

lilith November 9, 2010, 5:36 AM

…will play “second’ fiddle to your daughter…

Cristina November 9, 2010, 9:52 AM

So, I realize now that my original posting was rather harsh, and it really didn’t do justice to the issue at hand.

In any case, I apologize for those remarks because they were really uncalled for. However, I do still believe that this is a topic which you need to further inspect, whether it is this article or your own outlook on your children.

My only word of (probably logical and coherent) advice is this:

Make yourself understand the difference between preference and love, and at the very least understand that they are different.

Children understand self-worth by looking at how the people closest to them relate to them. Although you mention you wouldn’t overtly favor over the other, you probably will in the slightest bit and it will show. It might be as little as

The worst thing you would ever want to do is hurt your child by allowing them to think they are second rate, especially when it comes to the one person who loves them the most.

Maybe to get a better understanding, you should really sit down and talk with your sister. I can’t believe your mother said “I should have stopped after you”, and I wonder how that sentence makes your sister feel.

But… do you really want the relationship your sister has with your mother… with your child? I don’t think it’s something that anyone would readily accept.

Perhaps flip the roles. How… would your life have been affected if you were born second, weren’t the one associated with “the good times”, and were “the second preference”?

It’s just a thought. As you can see, there are a lot of people who understand the topic, but don’t necessarily understand your particular take on the issue. It might be worth re-evaluating.

Jilly November 9, 2010, 10:25 AM

Christina, I dont think you were harsh…this mom does need to understand preference vs. love, plus lets add in the fact that due to differences in personality will lead to different types of relationships with each of your children.
While I think this mom’s fear is normal she is misguided in her way of thinking about it due to her own mother’s crapassed parenting! THAT is the real problem, no parent should ever say those things to children and now this poor mom thinks it will happen to her as well!
I have two children and yes, my first is special because he was first, BUT my second is also special because she was second!! And maybe you do clash with one more than the other, that by no means designates you love them less or that you “should have stopped” in order to avoid that. Honestly, this mom needs to stop listening to her own mother and get herself educated on healthy relationships!

Anonymous November 9, 2010, 6:46 PM

Just a note: If your second child is not yet born, then you probably don’t yet know how you will feel. With my first, I was very in touch with my baby and felt like I knew him before he was born. With my second, it was different. Life was hectic, and I didn’t ever even “feel” like I was having a baby until the doctor pulled him out (c-section). I loved him, but he is soo different from his brother that I am still (10 months later)trying to get over the “baby” in my mind while I was pregnant (a clone of my first).
But now, as he is growing and developing his own unique personality I am loving him more than ever for who he is.

JS November 16, 2010, 4:52 AM

I am not a mother. I just recently turned 18, and i have an older sister and a younger brother. I can tell in my family that my father favours my brother, and my mother favours me. Not saying that my sister does not get love that is a huge missconception. My sister is spoiled rotten, she is very much a princess, getting anything she wants and its well known, to my parents, my brother, and her poor boyfriend. my brother and my father have a bond because my brother is the only boy, before him i was my dads favorite being the toughest of his children. than a boy came along and his attention was directed to my brother. i dont mind that, my dad and i have differant view points most of the time but were still family. i know that i am my mothers favorite. she wont say it out loud but we talk about everything. how things are at school, how things are for her at work. we laugh like crazy, and she loves my opinionated personality. she would go to the ends of the earth for all of her children and she is an amazing mother. but my sister does not talk to her like i will, and they dont have that same bond, i know that. my brother is like my sister in that way, they dont think that they need to have such a personal relationship so long as they attend the familys needs such as, family parties, birthdays. Things like that. this may seem pretty confusing to understand, but my point is that i know i am my mothers favorite its not a bad thing because i know she loves us all the perfect amount. but i know that my sister would never talk with my mom how i do, and my brother- no way. so im not saying shes wrong having me as her favorite but she would never admit that out loud. saying that you should have stopped having children after your first is like saying i wish you were never born. its wrong and frankly disturbing to hear. there is room for more than one in every mothers heart, it just depends on weather or not they are as open to that concept as their children will be.

Pott54 November 16, 2010, 6:28 AM

I AM A FAVORITE DAUGHTER,GRANDDAUGHTER & NIECE and let me tell you I do not think it’s fair to SHOW favoritism to another child let alone TELL a child that HE/SHE IS THE FAVORITE—even if the parent feels that way. Not only does it hamper the relationship the other children have with the parent BUT MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, it affects the relationship(s)the SIBLINGS should have with one another.

In my situation, I was the favorite “I believe” due to birth position and circumstances. I was born 3-1/2 years after my brother and my parents (especially my dad) wanted a “girl” so bad. Also, on my mother’s side of the family, none of my aunts had yet given birth to a girl; there were only two granddaughters and both belonged to my uncle plus all babies born after them were boys.

Along with all of the above, I was born in my grandparents’ home and my GRANDMOTHER delivered me…and I WAS HERS! I was the first born daughter to her oldest daughter—NUFF SAID. Plus my Aunt Rita was a 15 year-old teenager who absolutely fell in love with her baby niece. I was 3 months when my mother & father left my grandparents’ home for Ohio, but up until I started school, they brought be back to my grandparents and I stayed 3-5 months at a time. Once I started school, I spent my entire summers in West Virginia until I was 16 or 17 years old.

In my case, the favoritism affected my relationship with both my mother and grandmother because they went OVERBOARD trying to show that I wasn’t a favorite and that sometimes meant being unfair to me or “marginalizing” anything I did so it wouldn’t look like they were “gloating” over me. It also caused a lot of MISGUIDED anger, resentment, & unecessary rivalry among my Aunts (my mother’s sisters), their daughters (my cousins), and my siblings—most of it directed at me.

As I became a teenager and began to rebel against being “marginalized” because of my relationship with my mother and grandmother, I was able to work out certain issues with my mother and grandmother—as a matter of fact it made our relationship even stronger. But, I had to eventually “tell off” my Aunts (except for my Aunt Rita who always took up for me) and distance myself from some cousins & one of my sisters because as I told them—“No more directing your petty jealousies at me—mom & grandmother NEVER mistreated any of YOU on account of ME and I’ve never mistreated any of you. Your behavior towards me is based on pure jealousy and I won’t tolerate it anymore.”

So much for being a favorite - lol!

Kat November 16, 2010, 8:21 AM

My, oh my…that is one sad post! My heart goes out to the other sister, and to Jessica’s own children. It would be nice to know that the vicious cycle she and her mother have created will be broken with Jessica’s children.
KUDOS, to the sister! I hope she is honest when she made the comment that she really isn’t upset and it’s a fact. She is the only one with any decency, morals and feelings. I can’t help but to feel badly for her. But, with a sister like that, and even a mother, I’d want to stay the hell away from Dodge as far and as often as I could! What a whacko for a mom and a snoot for a sister!
I’m still shaking my head as to why Jessica Katz made the post to begin with. Oh, right, it called being selfabsorbed, selfserving, and selfrighteous people.

Sandy November 16, 2010, 8:26 AM

I wasn’t sure why I received the email connected to this site, my boys are grown and away at college, so as I was about to unsubscribe I clicked on and read the article about “favorite kid”. I have to say I am appalled at what the author has written. It’s not that some of the things said aren’t true, it’s the she announces to the public the terrible thing her mother said about her sibling, “should have stopped after her first”, that is just cruel. No matter what her relationship is with her other children, to say such a thing is disgusting, and for the author to print it is even worse. What a terrible way to start my day, shame on you.

Chante November 16, 2010, 11:12 AM

Did I really just read this? You love your Gucci bag as much as your Marc Jacobs? No wonder you’re confused, look at the company you keep. I admit, the more children you have, the harder it is to form a bond at first, and yes, every parent has the fear that they’ll never love any more children the way they did with the first. But really? You’re basically announcing to the world you have no more love to give. Your first is your favorite just like your mother did to you and your sister. I think you would be singing a different tune if you were the second born and your sister was the first. can you imagine the hurt she must’ve grown up with knowing you were the “favorite”? Please dont put your second child through that..they are apart of you. Teach them well

Tina B November 16, 2010, 3:34 PM

I am not the favorite child of either of my parents. I was the third girl of 5 kids and they really wanted a boy. I know I am not the favorite and I feel it every time we are together. My parents have planned vacations with both my sisters and my brothers and are currently on a cruise with one of my sisters. I wasn’t asked if my family wanted to join in the fun, I was asked if I could keep an eye on their house and collect their mail. Oh well I am sure they will bring me a lovely refrigerator magnet from some exotic port of call to show how much I mean to them.

Gina November 16, 2010, 4:37 PM

If the author truly feels you cannot be attached to the second child as much and justifies it saying we are all this way should have stopped with 1 child and anyone who agrees should either not have any or stop at 1 as well

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