Comparing Children

By Veronica

Is it ever okay to compare your children?

Because I do it. There are the obvious things that are just part of getting to know your kids: this one is more stubborn than that one, this one needs cuddles more often than the others, this one is a great eater while the others just pick. But I notice other things too. This daughter has the most startling eyes, that one has a perfect mouth, this one has the world’s cutest nose.

I don’t say these things out loud, of course. I don’t want my girls to compare themselves and say, “Mom likes her nose best.” But I notice.

This mildly horrifies my husband. All our children are equally loved, and he wants that love to be reflected in an equality of all other traits. I’m not sure that’s entirely possible.

My parents sometimes categorized my brother and sisters and me. In brief, we were the pretty one, the athletic one, the smart one and the witty one. Of all these, I would think the pretty one might find it most insulting, but for better or for worse, she was vain enough to find it flattering. And now that she is an adult, she has many other accomplishments besides beauty. The one of us who complained about her designation the most was my younger sister, the witty one. She thought this was a trivial identity. Since, however, it meant that everyone wanted to sit by her at parties, I envied it.

(Seriously, in high school you could always find her by looking for the clot of people that periodically burst into laughter. She would be at its center.)

I have been thinking about these things because my current baby – my last baby – is simply wonderful. She is sweet and laughing, wide-eyed and friendly. She loves to snuggle. She sleeps well. She wakes in the morning with a contented smile and grins at me instead of immediately demanding that we start our day. She even – and this is the first time I’ve had a baby like this – sometimes lets me put her down. Today I put her in her car seat, put the car seat on the dining table next to my plate, and she let me eat an ENTIRE MEAL that way.

The whole meal. I ate with TWO hands. I can’t remember the last time a baby let me do that.

I do not love this baby more than my others; I loved the first one who wouldn’t sleep, I loved the second one who had colic and I loved the third one who was extra demanding, even for a baby. Each of my children has been equally precious to me. But I find myself surprised at how often the experience of babyhood this time around comes in sweet moments, with very few of the bitter ones.

My father, when he speaks to each of us on the phone, will say, “You know you always were my favorite child. Every one of my children is my favorite child!”

And it’s true. Every one of my children is my favorite. Every one. I don’t want to limit my children or create jealousies among them. I love every one of my daughters, and I think they are all beautiful. My compliments of them are absolute rather than comparative. But I still find myself saying, without thinking, when I scoop my youngest up in my arms, “Oh, honey! You are such a good baby. The best baby in the world!”

Veronica blogs about the best baby in the world at Toddled Dredge.

17 Responses to Comparing Children
  1. Bon
    January 20, 2009 | 10:31 am

    this post makes me all sugary and warm and gooey, in the best way.

    it also makes me green with envy. really? a whole meal? both hands?!?!

  2. Jozet at Halushki
    January 20, 2009 | 10:35 am

    I do compare. But I try not too. And I desperately try not to label. I saw how much that hurt both me and my sister is life-lasting ways, even when the labeling was well-intended. I was complimented on being the smart one; my sister on being the athletic one. But it was then tough and made us each a little self-conscious when trying to hone our own athleticism or smartitude, even if we knew we were unique: the comparison was always hanging over us, so any attempts were never only on our own terms. They were in relation to each other. And that might be fine for teammates or schoolmates, but it does, I think, have a different dynamic within a family.

    The most I will say is, “So and so is currently working very hard at this activity” or “you seem to be focusing on this right now.” Just notice, but not assign.

    However, I will say that when the baby is being sweet, he is, in fact, the sweetest baby in the world. There is nothing more uncomplicated than a sweet baby. And when my daughters were babies, they, too, were the sweetest babies in the world. So, I do think that’s fair and fine. 😉 Babies are an entirely different animal.

  3. Jozet at Halushki
    January 20, 2009 | 10:35 am

    Oh, btw…great post! I like these thinking type of posts. Otherwise my brain would turn to jelly.

  4. Veronica
    January 20, 2009 | 10:46 am

    Jozet, I think one of the reasons I experienced the labeling differently as a kid was that there were four of us kids. It’s easier not to feel directly compared to a sibling when there are a crowd of you. If there were only two of us, it would feel much heavier more significant.

  5. Beck
    January 20, 2009 | 10:54 am

    Oh, lovely!
    And of COURSE I compare my kids. I even feel differently about them – but I love them equally, if that makes sense. One child is the easiest for me to relate to, another has a startling kindness, and yet another is just so funny and cuddly – they’re not the same person, so of course I see how they’re different.

  6. Stephanie'sMommyBrain
    January 20, 2009 | 10:56 am

    I find myself doing the same thing. I also have four and my (last)baby is 3 months. I’m trying really hard not to label them. We praise their strengths, encourage their efforts in weaknesses and hand out lots of hugs and kisses for no reason at all. =)

  7. Sarah at themommylogues
    January 20, 2009 | 11:59 am

    I’ve been thinking about this so much lately, as my girls’ personalities really start to come out. And I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to love them differently. I may love them an equal amount, but I love each unique thing about them. And the reason this fills me with immense joy, is it strikes me this is how God loves each of us. He doesn’t love me more than you, but he loves me differently. He knows us well enough that there are things about each of us that probably strike him the same way you’re talking about. It’s not more. It’s not better. It is personal and unique.

  8. Jen
    January 20, 2009 | 12:27 pm

    I think it’s natural to feel more of an affinity for one kid or another, if one’s personality meshes with your own. I only wish my baby were an easy one this time around!

  9. mom.huebert
    January 20, 2009 | 3:28 pm

    My husband’s grandmother had seven children (or “one and a half dozen” as she used to say) and when someone would ask her “which one is your favorite?” she’d answer “the one who’s sick.”

  10. Hannah
    January 20, 2009 | 4:06 pm

    Guilty (Raising my hand)!

    Thanks for throwing those comments about your wonderful, mild-mannered fourth into my mental gyrations about having a fourth (after three who sound a lot like your three)!

  11. Adventures In Babywearing
    January 21, 2009 | 1:17 am

    I can relate SO much. Ivy is seriously the most perfect baby in every single way. I often think it is my gift as she’s my fourth and most likely my last. But anyway- I always pray that each one of my children secretly think that THEY are my favorite. : )


  12. Lisa
    January 21, 2009 | 10:43 am

    Great post! I try not to label my children, but the strange thing is, I find them wanting to label themselves! I explain to them that they can be anything they want to be, and not to limit themselves with a label, considering themselves only ‘this’ or ‘that’. I hope I’m getting through 🙂

  13. Kelly
    January 24, 2009 | 12:49 am

    How can we NOT label them in some ways? They are different, ergo our relationships will be different. The important thing is to let them know they are all loved equally.

  14. casual friday everyday
    January 25, 2009 | 9:19 pm

    Yes, I do it. More than I should. I also don’t say it out loud. I have a feeling more parents do this than admit to it.


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