I’m the apple of my father’s eye. For as long as I could remember, we were pretty much inseparable. I always felt I could talk to him about anything, and that I did. From crushes to school projects to parties, I told him everything. He was my ear through my elementary and high school years; a best friend before I knew what it was. His palpable love for me benefited me in many ways I can see now in my adult life, but as a kid, all I heard from people around us was “Mr. Andrews, you’re spoiling that little girl.” It was true. I always felt special, and loved, and significant to him, even during the rare occasions I got in deep trouble and didn’t get my way.

Like most girls, I relished in my father’s attention and would get, ahem, jealous when other little girls would come warm up to him. Chill, homie, that’s MY dad. That place on his lap is reserved for me. Candy? Get it from someone else, boo boo. My little seven year-old mind was possessive even before I could understand what it meant.

One year later, my little sister was born. While my mother was pregnant, I’d overhear women in my church tell her, disapprovingly, “Watch out when your new daughter is born. Jessica [me] is not going to want to share her father.” I remember panicking. Will this girl come between my Dad and I?

When my sister finally came into my life as a newborn baby, I immediately got swept up in how adorable she was. Her big cheeks, cute button nose, sweet disposition! There was so much to love about her.

The love continued to grow as she got older. I didn’t understand at the time why I hadn’t felt threatened by her. But now, I see why. Unbeknownst to me, before I even could recognize the possibility of her being a threat, my Dad had started the process of differentiating the two of us. She wasn’t a carbon copy of me. She was her own person. She liked blue. I loved pink. I was obsessed with ballet and jazz. She wanted to be a cheerleader. I had a loud, vivacious, colorful personality. She was shy, reserved, charming and kind.

And he loved us differently. He praised us both for character traits that he admired, and challenged and encouraged us both when we fell short. I never felt we were fighting for our father’s love. It was abundant, all-encompassing and always available to us both.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to feel you have to compete with your siblings for the love of your parents. Or what it’s like to lose that theoretic battle when you’re not chosen as “the favorite.”

A parent’s love is so influential in determining how we interact with people later in life. When children aren’t chosen as the favorite, it could foster a spirit of competition and insecurity in them that materializes when they’re adults.

That’s why a 42-year-old father, who writes under the name “Dadcamp,” sparked a firestorm when he admitted he had a favorite son on the parenting website, Babble:

Yes, I have a favorite son and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m guessing you could look deep in the mirror and admit you have a favorite too. […] My choosing Zacharie as my favorite is not about ‘playing favorites,’ or ‘preferential treatment’ when I’m parenting. I don’t let Zacharie get away with anything because he’s my first pick, I just .. y’know .. like him better.

Liking one child better than another may seem harmless, but we all know it’s not. The impact of growing up while feeling less than a sibling, can haunt people long after they’ve left their childhood home.

It’s true a parent may connect with one child more because they have similar personalities, or maybe that child is older and can “do stuff” as Dadcamp wrote. But I think it’s worth it to look beyond your preferences and try to love and like them equally. For their sake.

Speak on it, Clutchettes and Gents: do you think parents should pick favorites?

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  • why the bias against XOjane articles? people are saying that they sound self absorbed and that it’s always about the author and not general issues, but this author wrote something about her life experience yet nobody is attacking her or accusing her of being self absorbed. i don’t get it!

  • cocochanel31

    I’m not a parent but I can only imagine how HORRIBLE it must feel as a child to just KNOW your parent favors your sibling over you. One of my uncle’s felt this way growing up and it wrecked havoc on his life and his relationship with his baby brother who was my grandmother’s “favorite”. Unfortunatly my grandmother passed before he could get closure and clearly still has some issues behind it that he takes out on my uncle to this day. If and when I am a parent I will try my hardest not to play favorites with my children, because they all deserve and need to feel love equally.

    What a horrible person who actually wrote he favored his son Zacharie over the other son. I hope the other poor child doesn’t read his dad’s words..smh

  • Keke

    The problem I have with the dad who declared his oldest his “favorite,” is that he’s all “Yeah, when my youngest gets older we can do the same stuff and I’ll like him more then.” But what if he doesn’t? What if his son is an introvert or doesn’t like the same things his dad does? What then? You’ve got to admire your children for their own abilities and personalities even if they are drastically different from your own.

    Growing up, I tended to be quiet and shy, but my little one is anything but. Though I didn’t have those traits growing up, I can admire them in her and try to mold those qualities in ways that will help her be successful. Hopefully, the father will realize this kind of treatment is unacceptable. Children aren’t stupid, they can feel when they are being treated differently from a sibling.