I know, I know. Scandalous. However, with all the media attention on the woman who recently confessed to liking one of her children more than the other, I thought it was time to come clean. I didn’t like my parents. I mean, honestly, at one point in my life I was ready to give both of them to the gypsies. They were inexperienced, old-fashioned, poor, demanding. They dressed funny, talked like Okies, and drove an old wreck of a car. But the worst thing about them was what they expected of me!! I had to mind them, be polite, do chores, get good grades, sit up straight, eat liver, take my medicine, babysit my brothers, do farm work, stay away from wild boys, and clean my room. It’s no wonder that I packed my bag when I was six and just left home! Of course I only made it to the mailbox at the end of the driveway, but I stayed there until I was starving before I agreed to go back. The only reason I never tried it again was because I knew in my heart of hearts they would die for me. You can overlook a lot of flaws for that kind of commitment.
Now I understand they were supposed to like me, no matter what. Wow! Even during the brat years. Even during the times I told them how “cool” my friends’ parents were. Even during the times I openly said, “I hate you!” They were supposed to LIKE me!
It’s amusing to read all the hype surrounding this recent little controversy. One blog about the idea of “liking one child more than the other” got 250 comments, most of them outraged by the very thought. Others have latched onto the outrageous concept that a mother must like her child just because she gave birth to it. Really? Are we talking about all the time? Year after year?
Love? Yes, I can agree with that.
Care for? Yes.
Die for? In a heartbeat.
Like? Well, not always, and not so much, and maybe not even as much as someone else’s kid.
I don’t want to play semantics here, but like and love are too very different concepts and create very different emotions and actions. Most dictionaries list about twenty definitions for “like”- all dealing with the comparison of two things. You have to go deep into the listings to even find it linked to an emotion- “to find something enjoyable or agreeable”. However, look up “love” and the first meaning is “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person” or “a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection”. I think we’ve just bandied the words about until we’ve come to think of them as the same. They most definitely are not.
I love my children. Always have loved them, even on our worst days. We bonded the first week and the “feeling of warm personal attachment and deep affection” stuck. However, there have been many times when I haven’t liked them very much. I certainly haven’t liked their behavior. Haven’t liked their actions. Haven’t even liked their personalities. Wouldn’t have picked them out of a crowd to take home and “enjoy”. Certainly didn’t find them “agreeable”. I’ve shaken my head more than a few times and asked, “who raised that person?” But that’s why God gave us such a powerful feeling of love and responsibility towards them…so we can get through the times when we don’t like each other very much! (I know for a fact that the feeling was often mutual!) If you don’t like a stranger, or a neighbor, or a co-worker you try to avoid them. You don’t invite them home. You don’t socialize with them. Heck, if you can get away with it you don’t even talk to them! Our relationship with our children, and a few other relatives, precludes that option. Because we also LOVE them, we have to get through the times when we don’t like them. That makes us all better people.
I think people who avoid the truth of this situation are those who think of their children as some sort of “product”. I made this child, therefore I must like it. I disagree. I think children are indeed a result of our genetic makeup, but a creation of God. Most are very different from what we envisioned. Often the key ingredient to liking your child is having similar interests and goals and feelings and personalities. A child might be similar to you because of genetics and environment, but they aren’t clones. If you have more than one child, the chances are good that you won’t understand one as well as you do the other.
I also think people get the mistaken idea that they must feel the same about their children all the time, through every phase of life. I can tell you right now that I was a pretty good parent until my children turned twelve. For a few years after that there were days we don’t want to remember and emotions we don’t want to confess having! Thankfully we came out on the other side without too much guilt or too many emotional scars. However, I have friends who didn’t have a clue about how to cope with young children, and were in their glory years when their children hit puberty.
Yes, I eventually learned to like my parents and I think that sometimes they liked me. I certainly appreciated them more after I had my own children! My grandmother always said, “You pay for your raisin’ by having your own kids!” She was so right.
Whether or not you like your own child today or tomorrow or never doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a parent. It makes you a human being with your own personality and needs and emotions trying to understand another human being. Making an issue of how you feel might be good for some exciting media moments, but I don’t think any of us truly expects everyone, even those who love us, to like us all the time.