There’s a theme that struck me in talking with elders about the families they grew up in. Of all the things that left an unhappy feeling about their childhoods, parental favortism was right up at the top. I had respondents in their seventies, eighties, and nineties tear up about memories of being the unfavored child.
Christine, 77, was the middle child, with one brother and one sister. When asked about lessons she learned from her childhood, she emphasized the dangers of favoritism.
I would say my family was dysfunctional, as most of them are, I suppose. I don’t look back a great deal on my childhood because it was what it was, and I accepted it, and I don’t have any excuses for my own life because of my childhood. I don’t really think that’s a great thing to do. Life progresses, and everybody has their own issues with growing up, and you have to get past that. But I think being a middle child, it was difficult.
My brother went in the service because he got in some trouble and that was the way out. You know what I mean? And my younger sister was always favored very much so in the whole family, especially by my dad. I think it bothered my mother tremendously.
The unequal treatment had lifelong repercussions for Christine:
I think the hardest think in life, for me, is relationships with people. I think because we’re all so very different and I think that’s one thing that I was not taught was that we are different and especially in my immediate family, with my sister. And I think we were never taught to believe that we were different people, and that we had to accept each other’s differences. And therefore it caused an awful lot of friction in our lives.
That experience taught me a great deal in accepting people the way they are. Not to say that I can always do that, because as I said, that’s the hardest thing in the world to do for me. But like I say, I got through that through the grace of God.
The message I took home from stories like this is: Be very aware about showing favoritism to children. If kids are treated very differently, it’s not something they easily forget – even after seventy or more years.