“Why does everyone think we have a favorite?” Sophia said. Anna replied, “Yeah. It’s like asking a parent if they have a favorite child. Everyone knows you can’t pick and that you love them the same.” In a rare moment, my girls sat on the kitchen stools chatting happily at me while I made dinner. Topics moved from homework to plans with friends and took a surprising turn when, after asking about my day, they started talking about being kids of divorced parents.
My daughters obviously know my profession and they also know that I often write parenting advice for divorced parents. Needless to say, we are open in our household about discussing divorce. In this moment they were sharing with me that the most often asked question by their peers is who their favorite parent is. They were frustrated that the assumption was made that just because their parents were divorced, they would have a favorite. My sassy Sophia said she likes to reply, “Well, who is yours?”
Wait a minute, girls. You mean I am not your favorite, the bubble above my head nearly blurted. Despite hearing them complain about meals made and chores to be done at their dad’s house, they still didn’t have a favorite? Wait another minute. My girls were shining a light on a closely-held assumption made by most parents of divorce. Whether seeking an initial award of custody, mediating a parenting plan, or living a co-parenting reality post-divorce, most people, and more importantly, parents of divorce – fall victim to this same fallacy.
We are as certain that there is a favorite parent as we are that there exists a better parent. Parents and their collective family and friends often solely focus on wanting to prove whom the better and favorite parent is. It seems logical and intuitive that the favorite parent would be the best for the children – right?
Then I heard my daughters discussing the impracticality of picking a favorite parent. I heard it for the first time from the perspective of a child. Surely I had observed the discomfort of children in trying to do so dozens of times. Children sit in the judges’ chambers to be interviewed about their parents. They often cry. They say with certainty they love both of their parents. They are plagued in the middle because they simply cannot choose. Just like most of us parents could not choose if asked to pick one child to live with over another. (Although I found my daughter Sophia’ bedroom floor covered in spilled slime today so that decision would be easier for me at this moment…)
We should be mindful of allowing our children the freedom to love. Regardless of parenting time, custody decisions, or which house has the better bedtime, my daughters were unknowingly teaching me that what will always be in the best interests of children is to be able to love their parents equally.