Sunday, December 23, 2007

Playing Favorites

My son Timothy's AWANA teacher is in love with him. Her eyes light up when she sees him and her voice becomes high-pitched and excited. He is equally enamored with her. I'm glad for both of them; he needs admirers other than his family.

But the very heart-wrenching thing is that everybody - extended family, friends, church workers - find Timothy adorable and charming but rarely does anyone praise Daniel, my other son, who is two years older than Timothy.

I know I should be so proud of Timothy and feel great that he is so praiseworthy. However, each time a new person chimes in, I find myself annoyed. Does no one get it? Is there not one who has a heart for the underdog?

See, Timothy is unusually smart, funny, fun-loving, and even at four-years-old, still has a baby face. Further, he is very loving and always up for a hug. When not over-tired, he is easy to handle; he amuses himself and is rarely underfoot. There is an internal joy that makes his eyes almost twinkle. In short, you can't help but get sucked in by his charm. There's no conceit in him about all this; he isn't aware that he's everyone's darling.

Daniel, in contrast, is serious, high-maintenance, always underfoot, nervous, fearful, impatient and sometimes can seem so needy that you feel he's sucking the life out of you. The words "bottomless pit" come to mind on some days. His cup needs constant filling.

On a more positive note, he's handsome, with features more balanced than his brothers. He's good at many things and very clever, though apparently not clever enough to draw attention away from Timothy's smarts. He is helpful and very loving and attentive to his baby sister. He's a good friend to Timothy; they are best friends in fact.

Best of all, Daniel is passionate. He feels deeply and could perhaps be a writer; he has a penchant for words. I'm in love with him! God is in love with him! But is that enough to create a confident, emotionally-healthy person?

What's a mother to do when the balance is tipped so far in another child's direction? Even my husband perfers to be with Timothy, although I don't think he admits this to himself. I love them equally, but my heart has more tenderness for Daniel; Lord knows he needs it. My heart has always rooted for the underdog.

I am reminded of The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. We all have a primary and a secondary love language. Here is the list: quality time, gifts, acts of service, physical touch, affirming words. Daniel's primary is quality time and his secondary is affirming words. As we've added children to the family (3 total, Daniel is the oldest) it has become harder to accomodate Daniel's need for quality time. Therein lies some of the problem. The busier we are, the needier he becomes and the less we can get done. It is a vicious cycle that leads to everyone's frustration.

We often take him alone on errands so he gets one-on-one time. He is welcome to help fold clothes or join me in other chores. This does help some of the time, although it doesn't give me much of a mental break, which can lead to my own crankiness, leading to his increased neediness. See where I'm going with this? Not an easy situation to navigate through.

I must try more prayer. Prayer that his harder-to-handle personality traits soften over time. Prayer that others will be more sensitive to the favoritism issue. Prayer that my love and God's love will be magnified in Daniel's heart. And prayer that Dad's eyes are opened and that God instills in my husband's heart, more love and tolerance for Daniel.

The reason my heart feels such tenderness for Daniel is that he didn't choose to have a needy personality, any more than Timothy chose to have a charming one. Personalities are mostly inherited. We don't get to choose.

No one ever said motherhood would be easy.


Betsy Shaw Mackenzie said...

Nice paragraphs, Pam. And nice, honest, insightful writing. See. You're a natural. It says so much that you are not afraid to be honest in your writing.
I worry about these types of things as well. My little girl's personality is still developing, but her big sister is already known as the athletic, artistic, verbally- precocious one. I am waiting to see how it all unfolds.

Lori said...

I happened to come across your new blog today while I was reading a different blog. I think it's really cool that your doing this for yourself. I have often thought about starting one myself but have never gotten around to it.

I have enjoyed reading what you have written so far. As a mother of 5 myself and 1 step daughter (ages 18-27) I have went through this playing favorites many times over the years. It can be a painful thing for us mothers to witness. Of course we want our chldren to be liked and noticed for their individual wonderfulness.

I have been reminded of this once again as my husband and I are now raising 2 of our grandchildren. The oldest is 2 1/2 years and he has very good verbal skills and quite outgoing. Everyone loves him to say the least. He talks to everyone and everyone talks to him.
His sister is 1 1/2 years old and much more quiet and reserved. She is a sweetheart and has her own good qualities. But, it never fails, her brother stands out and she seems to not get noticed. I know people don't do this on purpose but it's hard because she is such a sweetie and she stands there smiling and looking at everyone with this expression that says "what about me?"

I try to pull her out to others and encourage her to express herself in her own ways. As she gets older maybe it will change.

I do agree that everyone has a love language and did read that book many years ago so may have to find myself a copy one of these days to refresh my memory. Thank you for your honest sharing. I don't get much time for computor time but will try to keep reading as much as I can! Keep up the writing!