I grew up with someone whose parents openly had a favorite child--her. She was from a large-ish family, but it was no secret that she was the golden child as far as both of her parents were concerned. They openly admitted it. Great for her, maybe not so great for her siblings, eh?
Over the past year or so, I have heard a lot of remarks regarding how parents of kids with Down syndrome must love their extra-chromosome-sporting child. Some people feel sorry for the siblings: "The other children must grow to resent their sibling who gets so much love and attention." Others feel sorry for the child with Down's: "Even with their limited capacity to understand, they must realize that their parents just can't love them as much as the other kids." And others are just plain mean and stupid: "Isn't having a kid with Down's about the same as having a pet? I mean, they're cute and all, but can they really do anything useful?" (Yes, that is something that was actually said; no, it was not said to me. You haven't heard reports of any severe beatings in my area, have you? Believe me, I don't have that kind of self-control.)
At the bottom of all this is the question that is really on everyone's mind: "Can you really love all of your kids the same?"
The answer is yes, I do.
And no, I don't.
Let me explain. You see, my love for my children--all three of them--goes through two filters, for lack of a better word. First, the filter of who I am; second, the filter of who they are.
I am their mother--they are my children. All of them. Roo is not my-child-with-Down-syndrome. He is my son. I finally understand why my parents could say that they love me the same as my brothers even though I was not biologically theirs--not that I ever doubted it, but now I truly get it. I have three children. I love them the same.
And then again, I don't. Because the second filter is where their individual personalities and needs come in, and if I just love them all "the same" when I look through this filter, I'm not doing them justice. I don't look at Roo as my child with Down syndrome, but I am acutely aware at every minute that he has Down's and thinking about how every single thing will affect or be affected by that. I am more intentional with how I talk to him and play with him. I am more careful about who watches him. I am more knowledgable about his future schooling.
Lamb and Monkey have their own filters too. When I parent Lamb, I am aware that she is easily frustrated, and that she is very much like me and knows how to push my buttons. I know that her primary love language is gifts, followed closely by words of affirmation. I know that she is driven to succeed, that she wants the approval of her daddy more than just about anything, and that relationships are very important to her.
And Monkey, he loves to entertain. He likes to joke, but not to tease--or be teased. If I yell at him, he blows me off; if I speak kindly but sternly, he breaks down into sobs, even over the smallest things. He wants to be a "big kid" like his sister and cousins (who are all older) so badly it's almost tangible. He absolutely LOVES to be a gentleman, doing things like holding the door open for people or doing favors. His primary love language is quality time, which is a hard one for me--which is ironic, because it is also Mr. Fantastic's primary love language. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and EVERYBODY knows how he's feeling, because good or bad... it's LOUD.
All of these things are constantly running through my mind as I parent, interact with, and love my children. And with very few exceptions, most of them are not set in stone. They are all still pretty little in the grand scheme of things, and their likes & dislikes, their personalities, the things that motivate them--they're all growing and changing with the kids. And I have to be aware of that too.
My love for them is the same. The same amount, the same fierceness, the same loyalty. I would fight for any one of them. I would die for any one of them.
My love for them is different. It has to be. They are three different people. And if I ignored that and tried to just love and parent and treat them all exactly the same... would that really be loving them at all?