“Of COURSE I love her – she’s my daughter, isn’t she?” “I love my son just as much as the next parent, even though sometimes he drives me absolutely over the edge!” No (good) parent doesn’t love their kid – at least they don’t openly admit to it. That’s a dirty little secret that remains keep tucked deep within private confines – that one child is disliked over siblings, or just not liked period. This secrecy is absolutely a good thing when the child is young. For a parent to admit not liking their own young child as they are growing up would do serious damage to the child’s psyche. But what about when the child is no longer young and developing, but is a full-fledged adult, out of the teenage years, and has turned into an adult that is, frankly, not an adult you would choose to like?
There are many people in this world that you recognize you do not like, and there is no expectation that you should like them all. We like other people because we have things in common with them, have shared interests that both enjoy; we enjoy the company of others when those others make us feel good about ourselves, make us laugh, are just fun to be around. We think that because we have so much “in common” with the long shared memories of our adult children that we must necessarily like them. But is it really true, if you look into your hearts of hearts? Is every child really a parent’s best friend?
Indeed there is an obligation to love our children in a familial way, but like is not love, and an adult child does not guarantee that the evolved personality is one to our liking. Yet we feel a sense of responsibility that somehow we created the final product, and so there is a mental obligation to like and love a product of our own creation.
But in reality we do not literally create our children into the people that they become; the creation myth is a fallacy. Indeed parents are very influential in the child’s first teachers, but life happens to children, with experiences and other contacts that are way beyond a parent’s control, short of living a sheltered life in an unhealthy bubble. The experiences in life added to the child’s innate nature can result in an adult that is disagreeable, selfish, whiny, in a word unlikable – of which the parent in no way takes 100% responsibility.
These confused feelings – ‘I should like my child, so of course I do’ mixed with ‘rationally I know that you will know him and to the world of what what what what what it’s okay to choose not to like any other adult, even your child’ – are often not looked at. Who wants to look deep into their heart and admit a possible distasteful truth? What is it to be gained by doing so? How do you deal with brutal honesty, if it is brought out into the light of day? Best to leave it alone, right? Let sleeping dogs lie, don’t rock the boat, and all that.
Most people go through life not looking for a deep relationship with their child who if they looked, they may discover that they do not like. Interactions between parents and such a child can remain superficial and that is often fine for both sides because it keeps the peace.
For those who want more in the relationship, the sadness is that it is really hard to change who we are. But if the relationship is important, and if the caring is high, the effort to improve the relationship is worthwhile. The greater sadness is when the caring is only one-sided, because working on a relationship is a two-way effort.