Mom Always Liked You Best!

If you’re older than dirt, like me, you may remember the Smothers Brothers, and their sibling rivalry routine. Whatever comical back-and-forth they were engaged in, Tommy could always stop the bickering by saying to his older brother Dick, “Well, Mom always liked you best!”

Do you favor one of your children over the other(s)? I know that most of us bend over backwards trying to make everything equal for our children. My mom would even SAY it. I remember many, many times when she would say to me or my brother or sister, “Now, we want to treat all of you the same.” Of course that doesn’t really work because “equal” doesn’t mean “the same.”

I just read about a Cornell University study that was published in a recent issue of Journal of Marriage and Family that said a mom’s favoritism is tied to depressive symptoms in her adult children. And it doesn’t matter if you were the favored or unfavored child – supposedly when siblings can sense that their mother consistently favors or rejects one child over the others, all the siblings end up being more prone to depression in adulthood. Talk about a rock and a hard place!

I remember that my parents bought my older sister and me a gold Mustang (used, of course) to share when we were teenagers. I didn’t have a driver’s license yet, and my sister ruined it for both of us when my parents found out she had been drinking one night. They took the car away. Since I never got to drive this shared car, just look at it in the driveway, I’ve always thought that was a little unfair. But I’m not depressed about it. My parents were probably pretty even-handed in the dishing out of the unfair and the fair among the three of us. I have no doubt that my sister or brother could point to some unfair situations involving me, too.

One of the authors of the study said, “We have a powerful norm in our society that parents should treat kids equally, so favoritism can be something of a taboo topic. If counselors can help older parents and adult children bring some of these issues into the open, it may help prevent family conflict from arising.”

I didn’t read the actual article. I just read a summary. But I hope parents don’t get all bent out of shape about this. I know it caused me to think back over how I’ve treated my own three kids over the years, and I hope that I haven’t shown favoritism. I certainly don’t want to be the cause of my children ending up on the therapist’s couch.

I really did try to make an effort to get to know my kids as individuals and to treat them accordingly. Maybe not the SAME, but to treat them according to their needs and desires. For example, I know my oldest does NOT deal well with change. He always needed to control his environment, to know what was happening in advance and to be prepared. He even made his own chore chart for the refrigerator when he was in elementary school. He never did quite train me to be able to use it, but I let him post it up there anyway. My daughters are both quiet and have similarities and differences. I learned that my middle daughter liked to sit down and talk through her homework. She didn’t necessarily need my help, but having me listen and ask questions helped her clarify things. Now she’s in college and I still enjoy our talks about whatever she’s studying. My youngest wakes to a bright and shiny new world every day and goes from storminess to happiness as quickly as a cloud passes across the sun.

I know that I’ve made mistakes as a parent, but I’ve done my best and continue to try. Now that my children are young adults, I hope they know that I’m crazy proud of them, and I hope they can forgive me for any clumsy, unfortunate parenting errors that I made.

What are your children’s personalities and temperaments and how to you accommodate the differences within your family?

Categories: Editor’s Blog