If I haven't yet stepped on your toes, I bet the title of this piece alone got your dander up.
Or at least raised your curiosity. Surely she doesn't mean what she wrote, you're thinking.
But I do. I mean precisely what I said:
Forget trying to love your children equally.
Let's explore what I mean by beginning with what I don't :
Not for one second am I advocating ranking your children in some kind of misguided preferential order or proposing you lavish one with lollipops and lemonade while feeding the others stale breadcrumbs.
Instead, I'm suggesting you ~
- recognize the differences of each child,
- understand that the dynamic of your relationship naturally varies from child to child,
- admit to yourself and accept that sometimes your children's behavior temporarily affects your emotions
So, then, if we aren't to love our children equally, what are we to do?
Love your children u n i q u e l y.
I'll admit ~ when this concept was first introduced to me, I was offended. It came to me by way of my in-laws (whom I love and greatly respect), in a conversation about their grandchildren. My first response was judgement: this was their way of admitting favor among their nine (at the time) grandchildren.
My daughter had been their first grandchild, their "daughter" after having four sons of their own. Because she was The One and Only, she received all their time, devotion and gifts.
Things would change soon enough–over the next decade or so, nine more grandchildren were born.
Ten grandchildren scattered between two states in four different cities. Financially, it was impossible to gift that many children at the same level it had been possible for one or two. Time was divided not multiplied. And personalities? Each child's personality was as unique as his or her DNA; precious snowflakes, complex in design, one of a kind…and all over the place.
I wrestled with that phrase–
It haunted me.
Yet, eventually I would discover its wisdom and brilliance.
So, then, what is the difference between loving equally and loving uniquely? How is it accomplished? What are the benefits?
Primarily, loving equally originates from you; the way you feel towards your children and how you convey those feelings. Loving equally is striving towards balance, keeping tract, tit for tat.
Loving uniquely originates with your children. It requires you know them so intimately ~ their differences, their motivations ~ that the way your love is manifested differs from child to child.
Loving uniquely is intentional, aware, demonstrative and action-oriented; loving equally is emotional, challenging, doesn't take into account individual differences, and is at times defeating.
Relationships are dynamic. Emotions can be affected by circmstances, events, hormones, lack of sleep–a host of causes. The way we feel, in essence, like those around us can fluctuate based on our temperment, the situation, and natural tensions and frustrations.
Loving uniquely empowers you to love "in spite of" all those things.
Loving equally expects children to be cookie cutter; that they respond to our parenting the same way in every instance. But how many of you with two or more children have found that what works for one never works for the others??
Children within a family are as different as apples and…elephants.
William P. Young said it this way:
“Each relationship between two persons is absolutely unique. That is why you cannot love two people the same. It simply is not possible. You love each person differently because of who they are and the uniqueness that they draw out of you.”
I suppose that's why in his book The Shack, Young's version of God repeatedly said, "I'm especially fond of you." "You" represented many people throughout the story.
I doubt my in-laws have read the book, and knowing them they wouldn't care for it much, but I think my reading of it helped unpack the beauty, honesty and wisdom of "loving uniquely."
Loving uniquely is parental paradigm shift.
It's giving permission not only to recognize the differences among your children but to encourage, embrace and esteem them.
Loving uniquely isn't about loving one child more than the other, it's about loving each child differently.
For me, this was liberating in my relationships with each of our children. As I began to see their personalities maturing in middle school, loving them uniquely allowed me to applaud their differences and to resist trying to make them clones. It also helped me avoid that familiar but damaging pitfall of comparing siblings to one another.
So…I'm curious about your thoughts in response to this; is it a new way of thinking? Can you see its merit? Or do you think I'm making something out of nothing? As long as you're respectful, I sure would like to hear your opinion.
Wahoo! We're nearing the homestretch of my 31-day Tween & Teen Parenting Series! If this is your first visit or your 21st visit to PENSIEVE, I hope you'll subscribe in a reader or by email so you can finish this series with me! And as always, if you'll share on your favorite social networking sites, I'd be forever indebted!