I Favor My Daughter And My Son Knows It

This will begin and end with the same disclaimer: I love and adore my son and hold as much love for him as my daughter.

I relished pregnancy, toting my baby around with me 24/7, feeling him kick and wondering what he would be like. Upon birth and for the days and years that followed, I was certain no one had ever loved a child as much as I loved Ben.

For the first three years of his life we were attached at the hip. Actually, attached at the lower leg is more accurate. I was the mom who couldn’t get up to pee during music class, join the other moms in the kitchen during playgroup or shower alone. He was in my lap, on my hip or grabbing my leg constantly. He would cry and scream if his dad put him to bed without me. While the adoration was mutual, I could have withstood five minutes in the bathroom alone.

Three years and four months into our state of singular attention and bliss, Ben’s sister Emily arrived. Seven years later, I can’t say that I love them equally. I know that is the “PC” thing to say, but I don’t even know what that means. They are different and I love them differently. The place they each hold in my heart is the same size but a different and evolving shape.

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As a baby and toddler I would kiss my son from top to toe to his utter delight. At ten and a half, the only time a hug and kiss is allowed is at bedtime. The boy who tortured himself when he misbehaved, downcast to have disappointed his parents, now argues to argue and argues about arguing. Questions are answered with a grunt, eye rolls and mumbled words in an aggravated tone, never a simple yes or no. He doesn’t do what I ask without being asked five times. I am on him all the time, or so it seems, to nobody’s enjoyment. The daily battles exhaust me; I miss him during the day and then want to send him away five minutes after he comes home! He can be moody and supremely annoyed very easily. He is self-centered and expects that our world revolve around him and his desires. This is ten and it’s not pretty.

It’s hard at times to relate to him, to have a meaningful conversation, once the “what happened at school today” debrief is over. He LOVES sports, yet I am at a loss to hold a lengthy discussion with him about any of it. He talks and I nod, but don’t really know what he is talking about when he rattles off a trade and takes a look at his fantasy football team. He plays chess and piano; I have no aptitude for either. I take him to chess tournaments and I have nothing to add other than “take your time.” Even I gag at that superior advice.

The truth is, I see much of myself in Ben. I feel his pain when he is sad and I am delighted when I see him succeed, or fail, but try something new. I am proud of the kind, well-behaved, thoughtful and decent, student, friend, son, and brother he is. I beam when he leads his team with grace and heart. I go to every baseball and basketball game, and miss him when he is not home. I put such thought into his well being, growth and happiness. We have our “things,” like the weekend top 40 countdown and will drive around to try and hear all 40 songs between Friday and Sunday. We play board games and read special books we save only for the two of us to enjoy together.

With all of that said, he feels I love Emily more and I know why. Because I favor Emily. Because she allows me to. These days, it’s simply harder to show my love for Ben in a way he can see it and feel it.

At seven, Emily is in her sweet spot. I know it’s a down payment for her future teen years, and it’s a payment I am thrilled to accept. She’s enthusiastic, helpful and super sweet. For breakfast she will ask for a bowl of Puffins and a bowl of “huggies and kissies” on the side. She loves to help around the house so she does her chores easily. She loves baking and arts and crafts, things that I enjoy and have an affinity towards. She will ask me how my day was at dinner and I am sure Ben sees the wide smile I get when she shows interest in me, and not just herself. Her manners are impeccable and she beats him to the punch every time. She has room for all of the affection I shower on her, plus room for the affection I want to lavish on Ben, but that he shuns. She is wickedly funny and cracks us up all the time. She is wonderful company and I can hang out with her all day long never grasping for conversation. We share similar interests and she is up for anything. She plays in my closet putting on my shoes and blazers, asking for a little blush and lip gloss. She sings in the shower, skips around the house in her pajamas and slippers, and exudes joy. She doesn’t care about electronics and the mere lack of a battle over one more Xbox game is divine. There is less strife between Emily and me and it is evident.

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Last night he told me that I love Emily more than I love him. Ben is wise; he’s always been that kid who is older than his years. I assumed he knew the difference between the disparity of affection Emily receives and a disparity of love. This is where I have failed.

He may be wiser than his years but understanding love and affection is not the same as remembering NFL stats. Love, ego, affection, validation, these are concepts that bring grown adults to their knees. At ten and a half, he can’t be expected to make sense of it. I need to create ways for him to feels what’s so abundant in my heart. I can seize his desire for TLC at bedtime and get more hugs, kisses and cuddles in. I can slow down and spend time making an effort to relate to him in a way that he feels good to him. I’m going to go read the back page of the NY Post. Boy, will he be surprised at what I bring to the breakfast table tomorrow morning.

Disclaimer: I love and adore my son and hold as much love for him as my daughter.

About the writer

Abby King is an aspiring yogi, flywheel addicted, booze promoting single mom of 2. In her spare time she bakes and pretends it's for her kids.

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Richard 5 months ago

Yikes! I can relate! I do favor my oldest (biological son) son. We have been through a lot together, prior to the birth of my daughter. We also have much more in common. But, my daughter and I have the same stubborn personalities. A trait that doesn’t allow for a closer relationship. I have many years to correct this and have already begun. My little girl is always seeking my affections and I do reciprocate.

I do have a step son who is the oldest and have very little in common with him. I also have a step daughter, the youngest, who is adorable, but again, no biological bond. My relationship with my step-kids is improving. I, as someone else pointed out, need to remember that I do not need to force myself to love them all equally. I care, love them differently…and that’s okay.

…making progress… :-)

stacey 8 months ago

I can relate and understand this very much,my eldest daughter is 14 and my youngest is almost 3 and we have been literally joined at the hip since day 1,wiser now im older I breastfed my youngest and carried her every where with me. I think it certainly increases the bond and have Co slept with her so naturally the bond is very strong and consistent whereas my eldest is a teen wants space and can be very difficult 2 communicate with. I think you may always have more in common with or enjoy 1s company more but you have 2 try 2 resist showing it clearly as they will pick up quickly and may b hurt by it

Deka 1 year ago

My mother has a favorite and it’s not me. I know you love both your kids and I’m sure my mother loves me too but it still hurts to know that I am not her favorite. It caused me a lot of mental issues as an adult – poor grades at school, intimacy issues, depression and anxiety.

Even to this day, I still see signs how my mother likes my sister over me and I wish for once if I could be that child who can magically touch her heart more than I do, but it is never going to happen. No matter what I do or how much she says she loves us both equally, I KNOW she prefers my sister over me. No, it is not a good feeling when you are at the receiving end of not being the favorite child.

Jessica Vanduzen 1 year ago

My favorite changes daily and is based solely on who slept the most and cried the least that day! 😉

Janelle 1 year ago

Backhanded insult aside, I agree with your advice – it’s not necessary for Mom to have ‘inside knowledge’ of his sports and hobbies. She needs to show support and pride and encouragement. It’s ok if you don’t understand fantasy football, just let him know that it is great for him to have his own interests. A boy’s mother is his first and strongest example of who women are, and how to interact with them. She can really give him a huge advantage later in life by showing him that men and women can love each other by respecting our natural differences.

Jessica 1 year ago

Great post, I can already see this happening even though my boys are 2 and nearly 4 and my daughter is only 10 weeks. Love the way you summed up your post, not just leaving it as ‘that’s the way it is at this stage’ . Favourite thing though is the note at the very end which says you bake in your spare time and pretend it’s for your kids hee hee I so relate to that!

Brooke Wondra 1 year ago

I find that whom I favor most at a particular time is mostly based on their age, and changes as they do/grow. Right now it’s the 2.5 year old son cause everything he does is so fun and funny, as opposed to his 10 yr old sister who’s chalked full of attitude, and his 1 year old sister who cries over everything… But I know that will change in a year when he gets more vocab and learns to “talk back”, and his baby sister will get to the “fun” age he’s at now. Unfortunately for the 10 year old diva, I don’t foresee her moment coming anytime soon! Lol

Amanda Martin 1 year ago

I should have read the comments before leaving mine! Haha

Amanda Martin 1 year ago

I can completely relate to this, as I get on much better with my second child than my first (although their genders are reversed) despite loving them both equally.
Recently I’ve been reading The Five Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman (I’ve already read the one for adults and it pretty much saved my marriage). Chapman argues that we all feel love differently, either through gifts, touch, time, words or acts of service. My husband’s language is touch, which is really tough for me, but as long as I remember and make an effort to hug and hold hands, he’s much happier. My son’s is gifts and time and touch (he’s only 3 so too little to tell) and my daughter’s is time. When I’m struggling to relate to her (as I often do) I make time to bake or do craft with her and we get some of our bond back.
I don’t want to offer advice – parenting is a personal thing and god knows it’s tough enough without unsolicited advice – but I do feel more empowered as a parent having read the book. Remind me of that when mine hit the dreaded double figures. 3 and 5 are hard enough!

Cassandra Colvin Weaver 1 year ago

We have 3 little boys and I love them all equally, but differently.

Kristen Mae of Abandoning Pretense 1 year ago

I flip-flop back and forth between favoring one or the other of my children. My son has ADHD and can be very moody. My daughter is whiny and clingy. When those traits come out in them, I think to myself, “you are not my favorite person today.” This certainly doesn’t mean I love them any less! Favoring is not the same as loving. That being said, I do agree about those Love Languages books. I learned a lot from them! xoxo

Amy Marie Pope 1 year ago

When my husband and first talkes about kids I thought I only wanted boys. I had my first, a boy, and still thought I only wanted boys. When I got pregnant with his sister I was so afraid that I couldn’t love her like I love him. They are 22 months apart, and are now 4.5yrs old and almost 3. I find myself regularly more drawn to my daughter and it makes me sad. My son was more energy that I can keep up with, and is so defiant. My daughter is calm and sweet, and so willing to what you ask of her. I love them both so much, but yes I do love them differently.

Melissa 1 year ago

Grammar aside, I was glad to read that the author wishes to communicate her love to her son in ways that he can understand. However, I was also concerned that focusing on talking with him the way his friends or another man might do (stats, sports, games) is not necessarily the best approach. I am interested in reading the book suggested by other readers because I believe it will answer this concern. The mother is a model for the women he will encounter in his life. How she communicates with him, works to demonstrate and receive love, will have a powerful impact on his relationship with her and his future relationships.

Zana Bowen 1 year ago

Jade- we were right, it’s a myth that you automatically love two the same!!! Best we just stick with one :-) x

robin 1 year ago

I relate as well, and I think you nailed it with your daughter being in the “sweet spot.” My younger is almost 7 too, and I know EXACTLY what you mean. Actually, my kids are the exact same ages as yours, and both scenarios hit home for me, so I’m guessing the 10 year old is going through independence issues, while the 7 year old is coming out of the toddler years, giving us a break there? I always look at both kids and think during the hard times, God gave me both of these kids, and for a reason. What am I to learn from them? What am I supposed to teach them? How are our personalities supposed to mesh? God had a plan, and He knows what He’s doing. :)

Lydia Quinones 1 year ago

It’s nice to hear this, and to hear that you have a plan to improve. I am at the start, with a three year old daughter who I adore and enjoy in her own way, and a 16 month old son, who adores me and can’t get enough of my affection for him. There I times he becomes a wildcat and I really wish he was old enough to communicate like his sister. And there are times she is playing and wants me to join in, when I miss her cuddles when she was two years old … I love them both dearly in their own ways and I too am striving to be with each in their own need.

Dana 1 year ago

I feel this way sometimes between my two daughters. I have a 3 year old and a 15 month old. With my oldest I suffered severe PPD and was on meds and therapy for a year and a half after her birth and I don’t feel like we ever really connected and bonded like we should have. With my second, the feelings were fleeting and I was able to bond and connect and take care of her in a way I wasn’t to with my oldest. Even today, I feel like she somehow knows that our beginning was rough and I feel guilty. These days, she’s hit her treacherous three’s and I feel it even more some days when I find myself holding my youngest on the couch while she sits on the other end watching TV. I’m hoping it’s just the stress of having the baby and her age and that once she grows out of it, things will take a turn for the better.

Meryll Harvey 1 year ago

So I’m not the only one. Thank god. My son is 20 and my daughter is 17. He and I were super close when he was a little boy, then his sister came along and she is just a joy (of course, she’s in those teen years now and has changed a bit). She is so sweet, is always willing to help, gets straight A’s. He is pretty self centered, never cared about school, moody, and I also have to ask him half a dozen times to do something. Whereas, I only have to ask my daughter once and she jumps up to help. I love both of them equally, but honestly it’s just easier to LIKE my daughter and the person that she is.

Nicole Resendez 1 year ago

I suffer from an adult version of this. My mother loves my sister more. She always had and always will. I think because she wasn’t able to have anymore kids (like medically unable) then the little miracle came…. she never let me forget she’s the baby she wasn’t supposed to have and we HAVE to love her. Mean while I was thinking .. ok but I’m here too. I’m not a miracle? So my sister and I never talk. I don’t think I’ve set eyes on my sister for longer than 30 mins in like 3 years

Trisha Kriley 1 year ago

Thank you for writing a post that tells it just like it is. I can relate… Ouch is right!

Miss Tiff 1 year ago

I can definitely relate to this. I tend to favor my son over my daughter. They are a little less than a year apart. My son has always been so happy, sweet, kind-hearted, and loving. He listens to me when I ask him to do something, and he doesn’t get out of control. My daughter has always been very clingy. She acts out and whines so much that I have just become annoyed by her. I love her very much, and she is so sweet and helpful, but she pushes boundaries, won’t listen, and remains clingy. I think she sees that I treat my son differently, which makes her act out even more. I also have disappointment and regret seeing that even my family treats my son differently than my daughter. I love them both with all my heart, but sometimes it’s difficult to like my daughter.

LJ 1 year ago

You know what, I AM an English teacher and a “grammar nazi,” but there is a time and a place for correcting someone’s grammar. Yes, I agree with you that proper grammar matters, and the mixing up the usage of “I” and “me” probably grates on my nerves even more than on yours. But this is a heartfelt post, about something that was probably hard for Abby to admit, both to herself, as well as publicly. Perhaps you could have found a way to contact her privately instead of commenting publicly with negativity on this post? I’m sure this wasn’t your intention, but your comment comes across as having an “I am better than you because my grammar is better” tone. I would just like to see a lot more kindness on the internet; we should all remember that there’s a real person with real emotions reading what we say.

And just to stay on task, good on you, Abby, for speaking and owning your truth, and for being brave enough to share.

Rachel 1 year ago

Have you ever read the book “The Five Love Languages of Children”? People receive and give love differently, and it’s definitely true in children as well. Perhaps by figuring out Ben’s love language you can show him you love him just as much as Emily. Good luck and hang in there Momma!

Just Heather 1 year ago

I highly recommend one of the Five Love languages books. You don’t have to love them the same or equally at all, as long as you’re showing it the way they need to hear it.

Marc 1 year ago

I always knew my mother favored my three sisters more than she did me. At the time I thought it was because they were all girls, and I, well, I was a boy. I made an effort to connect with my mother in my thirties, when I decided I had a wonderful family after all. It was well worth it. I think Ben will come around. He might be old enough to talk to about it, sort of like you did here. Even if he doesn’t feel differently about it at the time, at least you’ve given him the concept and hopefully he can apply it later.

rellis 1 year ago

People who think they don’t want another kid because they’re afraid they won’t love him/her as much: Please know that not every parent loves or favors one child over the other. My kids are very different, and each is difficult in their own way and sweet and wonderful in their own way. I don’t feel like I favor one over the other, and my kids agree.

If one child is crabby and difficult, maybe that’s the result of favoring the other child, rather than the cause….

Pinky 1 year ago

Growing up my mother favor my older brother. He could do no wrong. Thirty years later I’m still struggling with it. I don’t have a relationship with her. I think this is why I decided to have only one child. For those of you who favors one over the other, think about how will it affects them later in life.

Kimberly Furnell 1 year ago

I absolutely LOVE this article. Thank you! It is the same with my son and daughter: love then the same, but have WAY MORE in common with my daughter. I am so happy to read this. This will help me to remember to take an interest in what my son is interested in!

sammie 1 year ago

While I have not experienced this yet, I really appreciate this post. My kids are 3 years 4 months apart as well, but my boy is my youngest. He’s almost one and he sounds exactly like your Ben, always clinging to mama, needs to know where mama is at ALL times, can’t fall asleep without mama. My daughter is/was MUCH more independent and sassy. While I absolutely love that my son needs me so much, I also need 5 minutes alone to collect my thoughts. I appreciated this look into how your relationship with your kids has evolved. I predict that Ben will come around again 😉 You’re a good mama.

Heidee 1 year ago

I don’t what to feel if my son would told me that. Though I know in my heart that I love them both equally.

Jenna 1 year ago

Sigh. I so relate to this, and I, too love them both with all my heart.

Sarah 1 year ago

OML! This is how it is with my children except I favor my younger son over my older daughter. I can so relate to this! I love my kids but the younger one is very affectionate and loves to hang with me and is such a happy boy. I am also older and more patient than when my daughter was younger. I am married now and don’t struggle as much as I did then which I know plays a huge part in my attitude/actions. My daughter is going to be 17 soon and I feel like I am running out of time. I feel like once she hits 18 she won’t be my daughter anymore but I need to realize that she will always be my daughter and it is never too late to fix our relationship. Thanks for sharing this.

Mikki 1 year ago

I am expecting my second child in four months, and I am afraid that I won’t be even able to love her as much as I love my oldest. We’ve had 4 years of amazing bonding time. She’s an amazing child, super well behaved, and we have a ton of fun together, I’m worried that I’ll be constantly holding my second up to the standards my first has set, and that she won’t be able to measure up. I know a lot of moms have these fears about their seconds, but I didn’t really understand them until I got pregnant with my second. While it’s not the same as the male/female divide you speak of, I can definitely understand where you’re coming from.