Do we really have a favorite child?
There was a recent stir over a story about a dad who went public with a confession that he “favorited” one of his kids over the other in a blog post. Since he’s a public figure in Canada (a broadcaster), his large following spread the story and he created his namesake, a “Buzz” (Buzz Bishop is the father’s name). Of course this also created fodder for other blog posts (“Should you pronounce your favorite child to the world?“, “Canadian Father Blasted for Liking One Son More Than the Other“, and “Dad Buzz Bishop Admits Online He Has a Favorite Son” to cite a few). Obviously, this isn’t the first time this issue has been discussed online. Last year, Jeffrey Kluger came out with a book, The Sibling Effect: What Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us. In it he claims that “95% of parents say they have a favorite child and the other 5% are lying” (not sure this was statistical as much as opinion for the sake of dramatic affect but the idea was promoted).
Yet, the controversy goes back even further. In Genesis, we read stories of birthrights being prophesied and given to younger sons that lead to Isaac and Rebekah having different responses to their twin sons, Jacob and Esau (Esau was older and by birth should have received his father’s blessing but God told Rebekah that the younger would receive it and so Rebekah helped). “Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Genesis 25:28 ESV)
So, do we love our children differently?
Since just about every other dad blog on the planet has weighed in on this issue I figured I might as well too. I think it’s fair to say that the main arguments on this issue fall into this scenario…we all KNOW that parents have children that they are more inclined to connect with, have more in common with and might even enjoy their company a bit more than others but should we SAY it?
Given that each child is unique and is part of God’s gene pool of history, it’s a given that within our homes we have different people, different personalities and relationships that are easier to manage. But, when a mom or dad comes out publicly proclaiming that these differences promote favoritism of one child over another, the controversy arises. Most of the ensuing commentary then usually splits down one side or the other—either praising the parent for simply stating the obvious or disdain for the parent for daring to take something that is generally accepted and putting a public stake in the ether and saying they favorite one child over the other. The question becomes, can you love each child the same but feel differently about them at the same time?
How can we love our children AND like them so THEY know it?
I’m not going to try and “solve” this issue. I do believe there is likely to be fallout at some level in a family where a parent boldly claims their affinity for one child over another. I really believe there is nothing gained by “going public” as Buzz Bishop did. Just because I see a woman wearing a very tacky outfit doesn’t allow me the opportunity to “just state what everyone else is thinking” in the name of reality. Seems to me that if it’s something we all know, then there is no need to speak it, unless we are trying to draw attention to ourselves. However, the potential harm left as residue when the dust settles might be more than Mr. Bishop had considered. We won’t know the result of this experiment for years. But, we do hear many stories of adults who knew (at least in their eyes) they were NOT their parents favorite based on how they were seemingly treated in relation to their siblings or in general (lesser gifts at holiday’s, not given the same opportunities to experience things, etc.).
Do those things happen? Of course. I am sure that my wife and I have fallen into that situation. As much as we would discuss how much we spent on each of our children for Christmas, what age were they when given a special privilege or things that we did for one that the others saw as “favoriting” one over another, we NEVER did it intentionally. If they had a response to this I’m sure they would share some different feelings (that might make a good blog post…stay tuned). But I do know that I would never have gone public with a statement that indicated I had a “favorite child”. Why? Because I don’t. Really. I may be upset with them at times or frustrated with them but I’ve truly learned to not only love them because they are my children but I really, really LIKE them for who they are. They are all great to be around (most of the time) :). To make a “favorite” is to choose. I can’t choose between my kids. I love AND like them all, differently but the same.
How do we live in the tension of different but the same?
I’m not saying that I don’t have a different relationship with each of my children. At times I have been at odds with each of them. Yet, I also have a unique relationship with them where our differences also draw us together. Just like my wife and myself. Their uniquenesses and differences will naturally draw me closer or further away. it’s the supernatural part of the equation that makes this all fit together. The Bible tells us that we love because “He first loved us”. I know that Buzz Bishop indicated that his comment had nothing to do with his love for his kids. He said he loved them equally. But his public comments indicated that he “liked” one of them better than the other. And that is the harmful part. No matter how he said it, at some level that truth will play itself out in the time he spends with them, the effort he makes for them and their perception of how they are loved by their father, even though he states equal love.
I believe that Mr. Bishop made a mistake in publicly claiming his favoritism toward one child. I truly believe he loves his kids. But there is nothing good that comes out of stating something that, while it may have threads of truth, has no upside value. God didn’t see fit to claim He loves any of us differently. It clearly states that God so loved the WORLD that He gave. He gave us HIS SON. Buzz Bishop and Jeff Kluger might clearly state that they LOVE their children equally though they might like them differently or even hierarchically. But their public claims will read differently to their children who will one day look back and see in writing that they were clearly not as highly thought of by their father. As I used to say to my children, “just because you think it, doesn’t mean you need to say it.” And, in this case, I believe that Buzz Bishop would have been wise to heed the advice of King Solomon,
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19 ESV)