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Sibling Rivalry, Part I

24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26 Afterward, his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.[A] Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.–Genesis 25:24-28, NRSV

I know favoritism from both sides of the experience. I know what it feels like not to be the favorite, yet still be loved. And, I know what it feels like to be favored and loved. I, therefore, believe I can give a balance view of this. However, you’ll have to ask my daughters, Sharise and Toni, whether or not I practiced what I’m about to preach. I know parents cannot help it at a times. I believe favoritism can be innocent on the parts of parents–that is, in terms of intent, not impact, which is a horse of a different color. Sometimes it’s merely a matter of over-identification with one child because the child is a similar birth order, gender, and physical makeup–perhaps even bearing the name of the parent. One parent or another may spoil a child, based on what he/she believes he/she was deprived of, subjected to, or both as a child. Therefore, the parent opts to live vicariously through the favorite child. On one hand, this can be beneficial–and I use the term guardedly–to the child; on the other, it can be a burden, trying to live up to the unfulfilled yearnings and ofttimes unexpressed expectations of her/his parent. At the same, if there are other children involved, which sometimes there are, resentment and jealousy can characterize the relationship between the favorite child and the others. Additionally, there can be a conscious and/or unconscious competition for the parents’ attention and affection, which ofttimes prove unsuccessful and unsatisfactory. What’s worse, it can send the unfavored, yet loved, children on a path to find affirmation, acceptance, and affectation outside the home with people who and in places which are ill-advised, unsavory. This is not a new thing, in any event. The story of the birth and childhood of the fraternal twins Esau and Jacob are

At the same, if there are other children involved, which sometimes there are, resentment and jealousy can characterize the relationship between the favorite child and the others. Additionally, there can be a conscious and/or unconscious competition for the parents’ attention and affection, which ofttimes prove unsuccessful and unsatisfactory. What’s worse, it can send the unfavored, yet loved, children on a path to find affirmation, acceptance, and affectation outside the home with people who and in places which are ill-advised, unsavory. This is not a new thing, in any event. The story of the birth and childhood of the fraternal twins Esau and Jacob are well-known and well-documented case in point. Even while within the womb, each brother jostled for space and sustenance. Upon birth, Jacob came out grasping the heel of his older brother Esau, which is often perceived as an omen of things to come. However, it would seem that the most telling feature was that each parent picked and groomed a favorite. Jacob picked Esau, as per the practice of progenitor, as well as the skill and courage he showed as a successful hunter. And, Rebekah chose Jacob, who, like her, was at a disadvantage in the birth order and was a strategic thinker who enjoyed staying at home. This ugly, unwise practice of picking favorites set up relational dynamics. between the brothers; and between the brothers and their parents which proved tragic and unhealthy. If you asked my daughters, I’m not sure whether or not they would say that I ever played favorites. However, I never tried to do so. My aim was never to love nor treat them equally, but rather to do so uniquely. Sharise and Toni, although are sisters who are two years apart and brought up in the same household, are two very different personalities, who express very different interests, dreams, and pet-peeves. My hope and prayer is that Muriel and I did a decent of balance our attention, resources, and affection. The girls, to be sure, will have their own take. However, only God is the final arbiter. And, I’m confident that God knows what was on my mind and in my heart at each point in my journey as a father of two incredible, smart, and gifted daughters–and, of course, beautiful. You can tell, through how I talk about that and to them, that I’m proud of them. And, believe it or not, I’m proud of the job Muriel and I have done parenting them, which was and is no cake-walk. What kind of grade would you give your parents on practicing loving each child in their home uniquely? Do you wish they had done something different with and for you? If so, what? What kind of grade would you give yourself as a sibling? What kind of grade would you give yourself as a parent?

I know parents cannot help it at a times. I believe favoritism can be innocent on the parts of parents–that is, in terms of intent, not impact, which is a horse of a different color. Sometimes it’s merely a matter of over-identification with one child because the child is a similar birth order, gender, and physical makeup–perhaps even bearing the name of the parent. One parent or another may spoil a child, based on what he/she believes he/she was deprived of, subjected to, or both as a child. Therefore, the parent opts to live vicariously through the favorite child. On one hand, this can be beneficial–and I use the term guardedly–to the child; on the other, it can be a burden, trying to live up to the unfulfilled yearnings and ofttimes unexpressed expectations of her/his parent. At the same, if there are other children involved, which sometimes there are, resentment and jealousy can characterize the relationship between the favorite child and the others. Additionally, there can be a conscious and/or unconscious competition for the parents’ attention and affection, which ofttimes prove unsuccessful and unsatisfactory. What’s worse, it can send the unfavored, yet loved, children on a path to find affirmation, acceptance, and affectation outside the home with people who and in places which are ill-advised, unsavory. This is not a new thing, in any event. The story of the birth and childhood of the fraternal twins Esau and Jacob are

This is not a new thing, in any event. The story of the birth and childhood of the fraternal twins Esau and Jacob are well-known and well-documented case in point. Even while within the womb, each brother jostled for space and sustenance. Upon birth, Jacob came out grasping the heel of his older brother Esau, which is often perceived as an omen of things to come. However, it would seem that the most telling feature was that each parent picked and groomed a favorite. Jacob picked Esau, as per the practice of progenitor, as well as the skill and courage he showed as a successful hunter. And, Rebekah chose Jacob, who, like her, was at a disadvantage in the birth order and was a strategic thinker who enjoyed staying at home. This ugly, unwise practice of picking favorites set up relational dynamics. between the brothers; and between the brothers and their parents which proved tragic and unhealthy.

If you asked my daughters, I’m not sure whether or not they would say that I ever played favorites. However, I never tried to do so. My aim was never to love nor treat them equally, but rather to do so uniquely. Sharise and Toni, although are sisters who are two years apart and brought up in the same household, are two very different personalities, who express very different interests, dreams, and pet-peeves. My hope and prayer is that Muriel and I did a decent of balance our attention, resources, and affection. The girls, to be sure, will have their own take. However, only God is the final arbiter. And, I’m confident that God knows what was on my mind and in my heart at each point in my journey as a father of two incredible, smart, and gifted daughters–and, of course, beautiful. You can tell, through how I talk about that and to them, that I’m proud of them. And, believe it or not, I’m proud of the job Muriel and I have done parenting them, which was and is no cake-walk.

What kind of grade would you give your parents on practicing loving each child in their home uniquely? Do you wish they had done something different with and for you? If so, what? What kind of grade would you give yourself as a sibling? What kind of grade would you give yourself as a parent?

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