Monday, May 14, 2012

Equal But Different (Parenting)

Yesterday I had a wonderful Mother’s Day. I received sweet messages from all five kids and my granddaughter. I got to spend time with both my mom and mother-in-law. And my husband showered me with love and honor. Even though we both needed time off, we spent the day traveling and having fun with family.

However, at the end of the day I lay in bed wrestling with Sandra Bullock’s question from Blindside, “Am I a good person or a bad person?” The enemy always knows when and where to attack – when we’re on a high; when we’re exhausted and emotionally drained; and when we’re trying to decipher what’s right. I was vulnerable on all three counts. All it took was a few well-placed words of criticism and I spiraled into self-doubt.

My sisters, parents, and I spent most of the week on a much awaited trip together. For three glorious days we caught up on each other’s lives, prayed, strolled on the beach, sang, reveled in the sunshine, shared spiritual journeys, laughed, ate too much, and watched movies.

One morning, we studied Dad’s Sunday school lesson on Genesis. It highlighted the problems between Jacob and Esau because of their parents’ favoritism: “Isaac…loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Genesis 25:28).

My sister asked me later, “Did you ever feel like Mom and Dad played favorites?”

“Yes,” I had to admit. “When I had to get up at 8:00 on Saturday mornings to do yard work and you got to sleep in, it felt like they loved you more than me. But later, I found out it was because you had been so sick with mono. They knew you needed more rest.” We agreed our parents have loved us equally as perfectly as any parents could, but sometimes treated us differently because of our individual needs and temperaments.

Favoritism is a danger even with grown children. Kelly and I want to love equally, give equally, and provide similar opportunities for success and growth. However, only God can guide us through the labyrinth of choices.

Many of you have kids and step kids you’re trying to raise without playing favorites. Or, you have grown children, step children, and grandkids you want to love and guide. Like me, you don’t want to make the mistake Isaac and Rebekah did.

It’s easy to give more energy and attention to a misbehaving or sick child than the ones who are doing well; they end up feeling left out. Or we encourage and praise the smart, talented, or personable child, and the other kids feel like they don’t measure up. Blended marriages add even more pitfalls. Parenting styles from our first marriage don’t blend with the second. How do we make sure kids from both families feel loved and valued?

Sometimes Kelly and I give an extra hand up when our child has blown it, if we feel that’s what the Lord is leading us to do. At other times it seems best to let them suffer the consequences so they will make better choices the next time. After all, our Father deals with us specifically and individually. He knows whether we need mercy or rebuke, encouragement or a time out. God is our perfect role model.

Even so, I feel inadequate as a parent. My desperate need for God’s wisdom keeps me on my face before Him. I can’t do this without Him. I’ve made mistakes along the way and will again in the future. Yet there is hope, because He is able to work best through a willing heart. And that I have.   


  1. I occasionally visit my daughter's church with her. One Sunday, her pastor (father of five or six children) shared about his favorite child. He said it is always the one who needs him most at the moment. Some would say that we should not ever show favoritism to our children. I believe there will always be perceptions that one child is loved more than another due to reasons as you mention in your blog this week. The thing about our Lord and Saviour is that each one of us is his 'favorite'. Isn't that remarkable? He never fails us. Always ready to pick us up when we fall and hold us when we fear.

  2. Really good, Beth! I think this hits home with alot of us, good job!

  3. What sweet thoughts. Thank you for sharing. It's wonderful to know that each one us is God's favorite child, especially when we're extra needy.