We were invited by a couple friend for supper recently. While at table one of her three children asked the host, “Mummy, who among us three do you love the most?” The three children looked up and all three pairs of eyes said, “It’s me, Isn’t it?’
The mother looked at them and put up a spirited show saying, “I love you all equally,” but I knew it was a polite lie. At some point every mother assumes she can share her love out in equal parts like a packet of sweets. With time she realises that it is impossible.
Each of the children will have said to the mother at one time or another, full of fury, jealousy and disappointment, “You’re always telling me off, not the others!”...”She has got more juice than I have!”... “You love the others more than me!”
To children, it’s quite simple - Mummy’s favourite is the one who is allowed to get away with the most. However, for a parent it is not that straight forward. A keen observer may point out that you give lots more cuddles and you listen to one child more. This could be the child you understand the most.
Your heart tells you love her most because probably she is like you, has your weaknesses and your virtues, she loves the same sort of things as you do. Because she has your failings, you tend to demand the most from her but tell her off least.
But your conscience tells you that not only must you treat all your children the same, you must also love them equally. As you’re not able to do this, you feel ashamed sometimes but then one of the other children will do something that relieves your conscience a little or confuses it all the more.
However, most of the time you can do nothing about it. You can’t dictate which way your love goes. It’s important to reassure your children. Take time with each of them separately and tell them why they are so special to you. It can go like this:
To your eldest child
“I love you especially because you were my first baby, the daughter we wanted so much. When you were born, daddy and I cried, we felt so lucky. And your grandfather was so full of pride and joy he went out and drank too much. You’re still Granddad’s best-loved grandchild.
When you were two you were very ill. Daddy and I took turns to carry you round the house all night long - when we stopped you started to cry straight away so we had to keep moving, night after night. From when you were very little.”
“I have always understood you. You always wanted to know everything to know everything and you were so serious. You didn’t seem to mind that we were very amateur parents. You were the baby we practised on - we’d dress you up much too warmly and buy you too many toys too soon. But our love for you was overwhelming from the start. For me, you will always be our special child.”
To your second child
“You were our first daughter and just as unique as your brother. From the very first day your Daddy doted on you. You were such a lovely baby. Through you we learned that babies can grow up without having every move monitored. You were the one who dared to ride your three wheeler on the pavement and you watched television — even though we had doubts about it— without any permanent damage!”
“You inherited everything from your brother — nothing was new, neither your clothes nor your toys. We were a bit broke at the time. But through you we learned how easy and how much fun it can be to bring up and love a child. And because of that you’ll always be my special child.”
To your youngest child:
Your sister had started school, we’d sold all the baby things and our bank account was even in credit for the first time in years. Your daddy and I felt like a couple once again.”
“And then you came along — our youngest, our baby, unplanned, un-hoped for, but what a stroke of luck! You won everyone over with your impish charm.
Everything came quite naturally to you. You were riding a big bike long before you sister could manage one at the same age. Because of you we postponed buying a new house but most important of all, you postponed our old age. Because of that we have a special love for you.”
The children may not understand everything but each will get an idea that you love her equally.