Hot off the heels of both Easter and Passover dinners, child favouritism is on my mind, especially after reading a study that points out that not only parents, but grandparents, too, have a favourite child. Who knew?
At almost every family gathering, my three siblings and I get into a lighthearted discussion about whom our parents loved more as we were growing up. Both my middle brother and myself always say, ‘It definitely wasn’t us!’ My middle brother and I both think that our eldest brother, the first born, and my youngest brother, the baby of the family, were the favourites… and they don’t disagree.
BUT, all my siblings would agree that between February 2002 and October 2004, for almost two glorious years, I really was my parent’s favourite child. Even I knew it. Why? Because I had sex! Sex that that led to me being Knocked Up!
Yup, forget about all my career accomplishments, the proudest my parents have ever been of me was when I told them I was pregnant. Following my pregnancy, and the birth of my daughter, I was the superstar of the family. My parents were so proud to tell everyone that they were going to become a Bubbe (Yiddish word for Grandmother) and Zaida (Yiddish word for Grandfather.) And I remained the favourite child from October 15th 2003, the day my daughter was born, until October 2004, when my eldest brother then had to go out and have his own baby with his wife, replacing me as the favourite child. Sigh.
Still, even if my parents would never admit it, I think my daughter remains my parents’ favourite grandchild. Yes, even grandparents have a favourite, according to new research.
According to this article on the parenting site, Mumsnet, after surveying 12 million readers they found that parents and grandparents definitely do have favourites. Nearly a quarter of parents surveyed admitted to having a favourite child. More than half of these parents admitted their youngest child was the preferred one. Mostly, parents listed easiness as the main reason for how they chose a favourite, as opposed to the ‘trickiness,’ and ‘demanding’ needs of other siblings.
Looking back, my baby brother was by far the easiest, either because he was just definitely the most laid back, or because my parents had pretty much just given up with their strict parenting style by the time he came around as the fourth child, so he seemed like the favourite. To this day, I still think my parents prefer my eldest brother because he was their first child.
Also, 41 per cent who admitted to having a favourite child said the child reminded them of themselves. I’m not so sure about that. My daughter looks exactly like me when I was her age, but is way more outgoing and confident than I was. That being said, my son is stubborn, competitive, and funny – so, based on that, wouldn’t he be my favourite? Then again, my daughter is and was a far easier child to take care of, so wouldn’t she be my favourite?
Although no parent would ever actually say, ‘Yeah, of course I like my (fill name in the blank) child the most!’ sometimes when my friends speak of their children, at least to me, it does seem very clear that they have a favourite.
But, never would I have thought that grandparents would have a favourite grandchild. My parents would never admit that they have a favourite grandchild, as they do just as much for all their grandchildren equally. Still, I do think my daughter is the favourite grandchild. (Sorry bros!)
I may not have a favourite, but do my parent’s have a favourite grandchild? I think so!
Mumsnet’s sister site, Gransnet, surveyed grandparents and 42 per cent admitted to having a favourite grandchild. Grandparents are less likely to care if the child is easier to be with, but 39 per cent said they are more likely to favour their first grandchild. So, yes, my daughter is the eldest grandchild (winner!) and she’s also the easiest grandchild (double winner!) always up to do anything with her Bubbe and Zaida, whether it’s a trip to Niagara Falls, baking, or having a sleepover.
Plus, my daughter calls my parents without me even having to tell her. If she’s having math problems, she’ll call my father. She constantly hugs my mother and says things like, ‘Isn’t Bubbe so cute?’ She’s the one who calls them to invite them to her recitals, plays, and school events, before I have the chance to. She’s the most affectionate with them. Really, how could she not be their favourite?
Interestingly, “the way the child makes them laugh contributes to a grandparent’s favouritism, and one-third of grandparents with a favourite said the child reminds them of their own son or daughter.”
In this fascinating New York Times article, called The Maternal Grandparent Advantage, written by Paula Span, who is also a grandmother who takes care of her daughter’s child, she writes, ‘I never stopped to consider whether it would have unfolded differently if my granddaughter had been a son’s child, not a daughter’s.’ Span writes how research shows there is something called matrilineal advantage, meaning, ‘…daughters generally have closer ties to their own parents than to their in-laws, which leads to warmer relationships between their children and the maternal grandparents.’
So what happens when it comes to parents and their son’s children? Well, basically, daughter-in-laws are the ‘gatekeepers’ and according to one doctor quoted, ‘parents rapport with a daughter-in-law, ‘a key figure’ significantly influences their bond with their children’ – meaning us daughters-in-law can cement or thwart how close they are to their grandchildren. I know many grandparents who would agree with this.
And I think this is true. My brothers, it seems, have to ask their wives first if my parents want to do something with their children, while my parents just ask me (their daughter) directly. Also, even though Rowan’s father and I broke up a decade ago, I call his parents at least once every three weeks or so, and I am constantly sending them photos of Rowan. But because her grandparents on her paternal side have always treated me so well, I’ve always treated them well. If they want to come and visit Rowan, I have never said no. They have no problem coming to me directly, asking what dates are good for them to visit or for Rowan to visit them. That’s because we are very respectful towards one another. And I know how important and special the grandparents-grandchild relationship is.
I don’t think my son’s paternal grandmother has a favourite grandchild, but my son is her youngest grandchild, and she does spend the most time with him, since he’s only five and the rest of her grandchildren are at least a decade older, if not already graduated university. It may seem like he’s the favourite grandchild, simply because he’s the baby of her ‘baby.’
Span also includes a heart-breaking story of one grandmother who moved cities solely to help her son and his wife with their new baby, her first grandchild. This grandmother had expected to be hands-on. As Span writes, ‘It hasn’t worked out that way. Her daughter-in-law did not want her to be close and refused gifts and offers of help.’ Not only that, but this grandmother told Span, that ‘amongst her friends with sons, ‘almost every single one says the same thing: the daughters-in-law keep them away from the children…and their sons don’t stick up for their mothers; they have to be loyal to their wives.’
Yes, I’ve seen my brothers stick up for their wives, hurting my mother’s feelings. That being said, I know my parents love all their grandchildren, and their children equally. Even if it does seem like they prefer my daughter.
Do I have a favourite child? Well, my son is my favourite boy. My daughter is my favourite girl. I’ll leave it at that. Do you find that your parent’s favour a grandchild? Do tell!
Tagged under: Babysitting,grandmother,favouritism,family and relationships,mother-in-law,building relationships,sibling relationship,feeling jealousy,best grandmother,being a grandmother,relationship with children,spending time with grandparents,relationship with grandparents,grandparents and grandchildren,mother and daughter,firstborn,favourite child,favorite child,playing favourites,grandchildren