When my third child was born, his twin siblings received him at home warily, and rightly so. My baby, who is now a toddler, requires an enormous amount of attention and time. And he's very precocious. He wants to be in the midst of his older siblings' exploits, even if that means playing Godzilla to their Lego towers and destroying everything in sight. When I ask the older two to include him in their playing, to allow him to play fort knowing full well that he'll pull down the blankets and pillows that serve as ceilings and walls, they get angry. To them, I'm coddling the baby, favoring him at their expense. I'm wrecking their playtime in deference to him.
Again, it's hard to disagree.
Parents worry a great deal about playing favorites. I try to maintain a mental notebook of how much parental time and attention the kids get. If I sense that the column beneath my older son's name is showing significantly more minutes than my daughter's, I seek her out and do something just with her. We play with her dollhouse together or read books of her choosing. If I've made the older kids put up with a great deal of toddler mischief on a particular day or week, I make sure they get some time to do something that's just for them, which excludes Baby Brother.
To me, it's not a question of playing favorites between my children, it's a question of meeting their individual needs.
Do I favor one kid over another? Yes!
I favor my toddler for "I'm-gonna-getch-ya" chases down the hall that evoke deep, open-mouthed guffaws from the pit of both our stomachs, and luxuriously soft lap sits filled with snuggles, kisses and rounds of "Rock-a-Bye Baby."
I favor my daughter for moments when she asks me to put my hair accessories on her head so she can look like me, or to lie with her on her pink Dora the Explorer sheets and read her tales of adventurous or royal girls like Madeline or Cinderella, while I run my fingers through the chestnut ringlets of hair that encircle her face.
Each child holds a special place in my heart. And no matter how much they may think that I favor one over another at any given moment in time, I know with absolute certainty that I'm trying to give my kids what they need when they need it.