"Daddy, who do you love the most?"
It's a common question children ask, and one which results in the same response: "I love you all equally, of course."
It's the same response, because it's true. We love our children unconditionally, with all our hearts. We love the way they laugh, the crazy thoughts they have, the daft things they say. We love them when they wrap their little arms around our neck, when they come to us after they've fallen and grazed their knee, and we love them when we wave them off for their first day at school.
We love them, yes: but it doesn't necessarily mean we like them all the time.
Of course, if any of my children had asked me who I liked the most, I'd have lied and said that, like love, I like them all equally. But, the truth is, I don't. I have three children, and on any given day I will like one of them more than the others.
It sounds like a terrible thing to say, but it's not, really: and I'm confident that every parent, whether you have one child or ten, will admit that there are times when your child just isn't a particularly pleasant person to be around.
Isaac is my eldest child. I love his intelligence, the way he absorbs information, how grown up he is and the fact that he's just as much of a geek as I am. But, despite being just seven years old, he throws strops and tantrums like a teenager, and it's at times like that - when he's stropping around the room, answering me back and giving me lip - that I don't particularly like him.
Noah is my second child, and I love his craziness. The complete opposite of Isaac, he spends his time leaping around the room pretending to be Spider-Man, and he won't answer a question directly. (Instead, he bursts into an impromptu dance and jives his way out of the door.) But when he just won't do what he's told, or when he cries over the slightest little thing, or when he laughs at you when you're trying to tell him off, I don't particularly like him.
Jemima is just two years old, and already has me wrapped around her finger. When I hold her I experience that weird thing that parents get when they just want to bite their child's thighs and cheeks. But when she cries in the night and wakes everyone else up, or decides at 5am that she's wide awake and wants to watch Peppa Pig on repeat, I don't particularly like her.
Tell someone that, at any given moment, you're not particularly fond of one or more of your children, and they'll probably look at you as if you're the worst parent in the world. I say that it's natural, that it's a human response, and it doesn't mean you love them any less.
Besides, I'm pretty sure that if you ask my children, there will be times when they don't like me, either.
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