Monday , September 28 2020

Parental Favoritism

Eric doesn’t believe that parents favor one child over another. I say that is total and complete bullshit. While it’s possible that a parent can love each child equally, this does not mean that parents aren’t without their leanings and preferences.

Take my family for instance. I know that my mother, the dear woman that she is, loves both my sister and me equally, but if my mom had a problem she would always and unfailingly go to my sister for the solution and advice. As she puts it, “Your sister and I are a lot alike. She understands me more intimately than you do.” Which is true – I am a people pleaser and have a hard time giving firm instruction. I want the person to be happy (especially a person I care about) and might not always tell them what they NEED to hear, but what they WANT to hear. My sister is without hesitation in letting someone know EXACTLY what she thinks. To me this closeness between my mom and my sister is a sign of favoritism, but not of the negative kind.

Two people have more in common, therefore they are more likely to find solace in one another.

I know another family situation where the favoritism is harshly obvious. The parents are divorced and the two children lived with one parent most of their lives until a couple years ago. The part-time parent gave up vast amounts of time and some opportunities to spend a modicum of time with the children, which may have been a contributing factor in one of the children deciding to change shcools and live with him a couple of years ago.

The other parent, in her infinite wisdom and maturity, took this as a sign of failure – not on her part as a parent, but on the child’s part as her offspring.

Since this time, she has been methodically and systematically punishing the child. She makes barely an effort to see this child, and rarely welcomes him into her life on even a part-time basis. This is done, while simultaneously rewarding the other child with time, attention, and financial rewards for staying with her, with extra rewards being given for not giving the other parent the time of day beyond what is politely required.

I am mostly an uninvolved party to this dynamic, and as such I stay out of the situation. But I can’t help but be troubled and moved to concern for this “left out” child. I ask myself, “How can a parent do that to her child? How can she be so cold as to treat her child like a common stranger?” There is no answer it would seem, and I find that the most disturbing aspect.

As for me, I sit on the verge of being the mother of two children, one of whom I know to possess many of my most negative qualities – the kind of qualities that one tries to rid themselves of but never can. I love this child all the more for being burdened with these characteristics for which she bears no responsibility. But what happens if I have a child who complements my flaws and I feel more naturally drawn to him and inadvertently mistreat the other?

How can a parent say that favoritism doesn’t exist, when in life favoritism exists everywhere we look? How does an instinctual mechanism shut itself off just because you are the parental unit of another person? It doesn’t seem possible, therefore I don’t believe it to be true. And for this I am deeply troubled for my own children.

About Dawn Olsen

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