I was taken aback in Netflix’s Season 4 of The Crown when Prince Philip tells Queen Elizabeth that all parents have a favourite child. He then goes on to say that Princess Anne is his and he knows who the Queen’s favourite is too. The Queen is surprised he would say such a thing. She says she has no favourites. He adamantly denies that, and ask her to admit who her favourite is.
I say I was taken aback by this concept, that a parent would have a favourite child, yet alone admit it so openly, because it is so foreign to my being. I’m a firm believer parents should not have favourties. I was raised by parents who made it clear they had no favourites. They let us know we were all loved equally. I had three siblings. I’m sure at one point or another each of us may have felt our parents favoured one child over another. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point my sisters each thought I was the favourite. My parents, in particular my mother, were quite traditional in their understanding of gender roles, as they understood them back in the sixties when we grew up. So, I had more privileges than my sisters. I could stay out later; I didn’t have any indoor household chores. My chores were cutting grass and shoveling snow, not cooking, doing dishes, or other housekeeping. Needless to say, the grass doesn’t get cut or the snow shoveled anywhere near as often as meals get cooked or a house cleaned. I could understand my sisters’ frustrations if they had any.
From my perspective my parents did other things for my sisters I didn’t get, and they always made it clear I was lucky to be a boy, otherwise, I’d be cooking too. I didn’t feel like a favourite. When it came to being disciplined, my sisters never received any of the spankings or whacks across the back of the head with my mother’s sandal as I ran by her when she told me to go to my room.
I didn’t grow up sensing my parents had any favourites. I didn’t grow up feeling any jealousy towards my siblings. Even to this day, I have a healthy love and respect for each of my siblings and I’m always happy to see my mother love each of us as she feels called to. My father passed away over twenty years ago. I know he loved us equally. Yes, there was something special about each of us he loved, but he loved each of. There were no favourites.
When I became a parent, it was easy to love my first son. I didn’t have to worry about favouritism. He was the only one. But when my second son came, and then a third I began to appreciate the importance of not having a favourite. I believed to the core of my being I could love my children equally, without favouritism. So, I went about my life parenting with that concept at the centre of my relationship with my children.
Not having a favourite child does not mean each child is parented the same way.
My three sons are different from each other. They have different needs. Always have. Always will. They had different disciplinary requirements as children, and different circumstances as adults where we as parents are called to continue to love them. I have never given to child A what child B needs, or vice versa, just for the sake of equality. There are times when equality is required. For instance, we have always spent the same on birthday and Christmas gifts for each child. However, if one child developed an interest in a certain sport or activity, we didn’t feel the need to go spend the same amount of money on the other children. This principle has carried on into how we approach our children as adults. We help out when and where we’re needed according to the circumstances of their lives and ours. What’s important to us is that we continue to love our children without favouritism.
I cannot imagine the kind of damage a parent can do to their children by having a favourite. It would definitely be bad for the non favoured children but also for the favoured child. It’s important for each child to be loved, to know in their hearts they are loved, and that means being loved as much as each of their siblings.
If you are a parent about to have a second or third child and you’re worried about being drawn towards having a favourite because you love your first child so much, a good starting point is simply recognizing it’s not good for any of them. Be aware of it. Love them equally while recognizing the importance of the different ways each child might need to be loved.