Playing favourites with your children could scar them

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Favouritism by a parent to his or her children could damage the relationship of siblings permanently, especially if the siblings don't address that elephant in the room.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with my sister Tebogo, who is six years older than I.

We had a heart-to-heart about the unintended and yet oh so conspicuously different treatment we get from our mother.

She's a single parent, and has been all my life.

I have never been ignorant of the fact that I am our mother's favourite child.

Yes, she loves us both, but I happen to be her favourite.

I didn't beat around the bush. I asked my sister how she feels about the way our mother shows her love for us and treats us.

She was candid with me. My sister told me that it took a great deal of time for her to accept that I am the apple of our mother's eye.

But she said something that was so profound that it got etched in my heart.

"It is natural, Papina [as she affectionately calls me] for every parent who has more than one child to love one of his or her children more," Tebogo said.

"... One of the children will be the one after the parent's heart. To our mother, you are that person. But you have never made me feel less loved."

There was no sense of pain in my sister's voice or tone. Tebogo was speaking from a point of acceptance.

I don't know if it is maturity that helps my sister to speak so gracefully about this or if it is purely her understanding of such complex issues, but I was pleased to know that she knows that I value my relationship with her.

I also believe that my sister has forgiven our mother for not treating us equally. Even though we both agree that she isn't aware of this, we know that she doesn't hide her deep love for her son, me.

The one thing that pleases my sister the most is the fact that I never use this to my advantage. I don't rub it in her face that I am the favourite.

But I had my fears through most of my adult life. I feared having a sister who harboured resentment towards me over something I had no control over.

Now that I am home, living with my mom and sister every day, some of my fears are resurfacing. They are rising from where I had buried them.

The favourite child is back home, and I feel like I am invading the space that was a buffer for my relationship with my sister.

I pray every night and day that there's no animosity between my sister and I that could be fuelled by my return.

I also don't want my sister to rehash some of the childhood trauma she had managed to deal with (successfully or not). I tread carefully.

I know my sister is happy to have me home. It is probably my own guilt that is getting the better of me.

We have both agreed that our mother may never see, admit or even acknowledge that I, Kabelo, could never do any wrong in her eyes. That even if I did, unlike my sister, there's a good reason behind it.

The truth is, if I could trade places with my sister, I would do it in a heartbeat.

This also speaks to my fears of parenting. Would I also have a favourite and fail to balance how I make my children feel?

I hope that one day when I have children, even if I have a favourite among them, that I may not put my children through what my sister had gone through.

We should really be conscious of the manner in which we treat our children and seek to be fair, always!

Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement, an organisation that focuses on the reconstruction of the socialisation of boys to create a new cohort of men. E-mail: kabelo03chabalala@gmail.com. Instagram: @kb_the_village_boy. Twitter: @KabeloJay

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