I married into a family that openly practices favoritism. Hearing relatives say things at gatherings like ‘Oh well so and so was always Grandpa’s favorite,’ is not uncommon. Pre-kids, this was unfamiliar and strange to me. Post-kids, it has become a fierce point of contention.
One day a few years ago my toddler son was sitting on my lap during a visit at my in-laws. My nephew entered the room, and my mother-in-law proudly declared to him, ‘Well there’s my favorite grandson!’
Insert record scratching noise here.
What in the bleep-itty bleep did she just say to him in front of my son and me?
Before, when the family referenced favorites it had always been about people who are now grown or gone. I’ve since thought of at least 1,000 ways I could have and should have addressed it in that moment. At the time though, it was so unexpected that I was stunned into silence.
Later when I saw my husband I let him know what had been said. I also let him know I felt strongly that if it did happened again we should just leave. I told him I think it is wrong to have favorites. If my in-laws could not help but to have favorites at the very least it should not be announced in front of the rest of the family, especially the kids.
My husbands response? My husband said his sibling had always been the favorite, but he didn’t think his parents would do that with the grandchildren. He said he understood having favorite things but these are babies and children. My husband was hurt. I felt mom rage for the first time. Even recalling it now makes my blood boil.
My husband talked to his parents. It was safer than me doing it. While his parents never verbalized their favorites in our presence again, they haven’t needed to. Their actions say it all.
I was surprised that when I vented to some close mom friends almost every single one said they had issues with grandparents having favorites too. Is this a generational thing? Do people not realize they are doing it? If they do realize, do they not think it is wrong?
I’ve heard some people claim there is just a “special bond” with one kid or others say it’s natural to have favorites. To that I say bull. And if for some reason that is true, shame on the people who make it known or show it.
My husband is right. These are children we are talking about here. I thought grandparents were supposed to help love and support their grandchildren, not needlessly single them out. The non-favorites end up confused and not knowing what they did wrong, when they did absolutely nothing to cause the favoritism. The “favorites” maybe put in uncomfortable situations with other family members or have an inflated sense of self-importance.
Having and showing favorites unnecessarily causes hurt and pain in family relationships.
To my in-laws’ credit, the favoritism has gotten less blatant over the years, although it still shows up in subtle ways. I’ve tried to tell myself I know what to expect from them. I should stop letting it bother me. Then something happens, and I get upset all over again. I think when it comes to my kids I will always get defensive when they are slighted, even if I know to expect it. I want my kids to have a close relationship with their grandparents, but I also want to protect them.
Since it has improved, maybe it won’t be noticeable by the time my kids are old enough to pick up on the favoritism. I don’t know what the best way to handle this is. What I do know though is that my kids freaking rock. If their relationship with their grandparents isn’t as close or as full as it could be, that’s not on me or my kids. That’s on them, the grandparents. And man are they missing out.
*Originally published November, 2017.