I would imagine most women pregnant with a subsequent child wonder if they’ll ever be able to love their second child as much as their first. I know I did. This seems pretty normal to me. The child you’ve held, known, and loved for X number of years vs. the child you’ve not yet met. Of course it’s hard to imagine.
But as anyone who has had at least two children knows, of course you love that second child just as much. And I imagine this holds true straight down the line: third child, fourth child, etc.
I would also imagine though, that all those women who love their children equally, find themselves LIKING one child more at times. This was something I’d never thought about when I just had one child. But again, it seems pretty normal to me that when there are two, three, or more children hanging out in your house, it’s pretty easy to LIKE one more than the others at any given point. Ever been in a room with more than two other people…?
A few examples
From the distant past: I bet my parents liked me, the well-behaving child sitting at the kitchen table more than they liked my younger sister who was repeatedly slamming her door and then opening it up to come back to the top of the stairs to yell one more comeback. Conversely, I bet my parents liked my sleeping siblings more than me the night I decided to “run away.”
From the more recent past: I don’t know about liking, but I know I was ENJOYING my four year old son, perched amicably on a step stool eagerly helping me make a cake, more than I was “enjoying” my toddler daughter who was pitching a fit on the other side of the room.
But those examples don’t go far enough. Of course we might “enjoy” or “like” the children who are behaving more than the children who are not in any given moment.
But I’ve also found that there are longer stretches of time where this holds true as well.
More “likable” stages
My sweet, loving infant Cora made her 2.5 year old brother seem quite difficult by comparison. And that lasted a while as she was easy-peasy for her entire first year. It was easy to like her more, while loving them the same. I mean all she wanted was love and milk, whereas we were being tested up and down by her older brother.
But oh how the tables have turned! My self-reliant 4.5 year old Jack is now rational (most of the time), helpful (usually), and we can easily talk through any challenges. That sweet little baby girl is now two herself so she’s having her turn testing boundaries. She doesn’t have the vocabulary to talk through what’s bothering her, and she’s pretty far from rational.
So no matter if you have twins, a brood of five, or a pair of cuties like me, the stages of life and the personalities of the individual child make it likely that you will LIKE one child more at any given stage.
I am choosing to be conscious of this by doing and remembering the following:
Different People Need Different Things
This education world mantra is just as applicable in parenting. I can’t expect my 4.5 and 2 year old to live by identical expectations and respond well to the same discipline. I need to differentiate my parenting to take into account where they are each at. I set myself and my child up to fail if I expect my younger child to transition as quickly as my older child, and I underestimate my older child if I allow him the same extra time I might my toddler.
Look for the Silver Lining
As I keep saying, I think it’s normal to enjoy the well-behaving or easier-stage child more as long as it’s not negatively impacting your relationship with your other child. I could see how this harmless feeling could spill into long-term parenting trouble if you label one child as more difficult. So whenever I find myself gravitating toward one child, I consciously remind myself of the bright sides of the more difficult one. That little girl pitching a fit on the ground outside of Hansen’s because I won’t let her hold her own snoball? That’s just my fiercely independent little girl who is filled to the brim with spirit. And I smile because the flip side to this tantrum is a social, expressive, bubbly child who knows no stranger and who is proud to be able to be a big girl who can do for herself.
Each of my children will have difficult moments, but so does their mama. We each get a fresh start every day and a chance to be better. I marvel at how my children NEVER hold a grudge against me when I’ve been in a bad mood or was short tempered. I’m happy to give them the same fresh start they give me every day.
And let’s just be clear. I’m sure there are moments when they LIKE their daddy more than me! But they love us both always, just as we love them too, through the golden moments and the fierce battles!