The Internet is once again all atwitter this week since a blogger dad wrote that he favors one of his children saying, “If I were to be absolutely honest, my older son is my favorite of the two.” If you read the entire post, he really just mentions his favoritism in passing. Why, I don’t know, as the rest of his entry is all about meeting and marrying his wife. Regardless, he started a firestorm with his admission that he prefers one son to the other.
The parenting experts and TV news pundits have all weighed in on the subject, and the verdict is in. It’s normal for parents to feel closer to one of their children, preferring their company more than the others. But liking someone more is very different from loving someone more. Parents may have more in common with one child but love all their children the same. Just as a wife loves her husband a bit differently than she loves her children, parents can love their children equally but uniquely. The danger, however, is if that parent shows favoritism outwardly to the child at the expense of all others. Examples include spending more time with the Golden Child, paying more attention to his needs, granting him more privileges, and yes, even writing about those feelings online for all to read.
And that’s where blogger dad messed up.
The issue of favoritism is one that all parents of twins deal with from the get-go. It can begin right after their birth when one infant is strong enough to head home with mom while the other recuperates in the NICU for several weeks. The baby at home bonds with mom as she nuzzles and nurses, bathes and rocks him to sleep. When the cotwin is finally released from the hospital, mom has to begin this bonding process all over again, and for some moms it can be a challenge as they’ve already committed themselves. Their stronger emotional ties to the first twin can last for months or even years, leaving the moms feeling guilty and full of shame.
Yet even if twins both come home on the same day, certain personalities are more appealing than others. Some babies are just easier to be around. Period. One is always smiling; the other not so much. One twin is a champion sleeper while his cotwin wreaks nightly havoc refusing to close his eyes. When both start crying needing to be consoled, who do you pick up first? The one that calms down easily or the one that wails so loudly that he sends the dog running? With twins, you get two, same-age babies on the same day. There’s no one-, two-, or three-year grace period that parents of single-born children get between kids. Twins are right there, side-by-side begging for comparison, making a preference for one over the other so much more acute for the mom of twins.
So is it a given that moms (and yes, dads too) will have a favorite twin? Of course not! But if you do, here are a few tips to help you develop a stronger attachment to the child who is not.
- Admit either to yourself, your therapist or your best friend that you have a favorite twin and that it’s not a question of loving one more than the other but simply preferring his personality.
- Be mindful of your behavior around your children especially if you find yourself giving more time, attention, and privileges to the more favored twin. Be open to the idea that you may need to alter your actions to include the less-favored child a lot more.
- Consciously make an effort to spend more time with the unfavored child. Rather than handing off that fussy baby, find a way to soothe him instead.
- Focus on the positive qualities of the less-favored child and try to ignore the ones that you find offensive.
- Help the unfavored child improve his unfavorable behavior. For instance, help the whiny child ask for what he needs.