It goes without saying that the grandparent-grandchild relationship is a special one. Now that our parents are no longer bound by the day-to-day responsibilities of caregiver, they can focus on the “fun stuff”. They do not have to play the role of enforcer, but are now enablers. The grandparent rule book is much different than the parent one. One example is the concept of having a favorite grandchild.
It is almost taboo for parents to express favoritism towards a particular child. Does this rule apply to grandparents? Apparently not, because my mom has a favorite grandchild.
How do I know this? One day, after observing her interactions with the twins, I asked her if she had a favorite. I was expecting her to vehemently deny that this was the case, but she matter- of- factly said, “Yes.” I was really not sure how to respond to her… honesty. Maybe this was a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” situation. Should I be angry? Should I be concerned? I know without a doubt that she loves all of her grandchildren dearly. I just could not help but notice that extra twinkle in her eyes and softer tone of voice that she would have for one of my sons. Maybe it was so easy for me to pick up on this because I too was a “favorite”.
My brother and I were the youngest of all of my grandparents’ grandchildren. Amongst the others, the youngest ones were in their teens. This fact alone made us “special”. I was also one of those kids that thrived on awards…and attention. I was labeled as “gifted”. My grandparents were so proud, and they let the other kids know it. We always got the most and best of everything. As a child, I did not recognize this as an issue. I was happy to be labeled as their “piece of gold”, as my grandmother would call me. Now as a parent, I realize how hurtful this could have been (and was as some of my cousins have told me).
It is easy for us to recognize the issues with parents who treat their children differently. Parental favoritism can result in sibling rivalry, low self-esteem, and depression to name a few. However, the question is whether the stakes are as high when it comes to favoritism shown by grandparents? I would argue that it is. It may seem innocent enough for a grandparent to give an extra piece of candy or have a special nickname for one child, but children notice these things. No matter how innocuous it seems, we must address this. It may not matter as much when children are younger. But, we all know how kids can recognize that their brother got one more flake of cereal in his bowl than they did.
Parents and grandparents are human. We will innocently make mistakes. It is also natural for us to “click” with certain personalities more easily than others. And, I will admit, that there are moments when I think one child is “easier” than another. But, we also bear certain duties. The world is hard enough as it is, and we, as parents and grandparents, have the responsibility to give our children as much emotional armor as we can. No matter what, we should make our children and grandchildren feel that they are a “piece of gold” within their homes and families.