Consider, for example, a man who has two children. He loves them both, but each competes for attention and feels a bit let down when the other child receives it, or too much of it, or what a small child with a shorter attention span might perceive as too much.
After all, children have not had many days of experience to drive out their memory of what came Before (After) and to inure them to repetition, such that they would know that if the other child gets more attention on Monday, there are six other days of the week to balance it.
One child might ask, with the voice that is both tinted with concern and the naughtiness of children that is indistinguishable from exploration, whether the parent loves both children equally.
From experience, you may know that this is a trap. If you say you love the children equally, you have essentially said that what matters is that they are your children, not that they are loved for who they are. Really, their question is about being loved as people, not roles.
On the other hand, if you do not agree, and say nothing else, the child will ask if you love the other child more, and just about no answer will suffice at that point. You will have a weepy child, a concerned wife and, yes, you will sleep on the sofa and deserve it.
Instead, you have to reach into the library of masculinity and be both aggressive — in philosophy, this means possessed of a will to set all things to right, details and big picture both — and tender, which are two sides of the same coin if you think about it.
You cannot answer the question directly; you have to get to the question at its root, which is “Am I loved?” paired with a concern that you might love the other kid more for being more obedient, proficient, attractive, athletic, or what have you.
The answer that will ultimately satisfy, although it might take some time and you may still end up on the couch, is “I love you for who you are. You are a good little person with lots of potential, and I think you are magic.”
Little people do not understand how magic they are, but if you love your spouse, seeing the fusion of those genes — a person you adore and your own self, since everyone adores their own — and how nature sort of takes that and runs with it, well, “magic” is the best term.
You know, having been around a number of years, how much potential they have, and how much good they carry within them. Much of that is genetics but a good deal comes from life itself wanting to make the best of every situation. They are an infinity opening through the future.
Your little people need to know that you love them for who they are and that they do not need to be perfect, only to stay on the path toward the good, but that you will love them even if they become convicted murderers. Love is not rational; it is better than that.
To see the possibility in a little person is to see the possibility in life itself. “Equality” would cheapen this; you need to be able to see what they do that is them. You cannot compare kids, because one will always be stronger in some area than the other, but whole people are not comprised of single traits but a bundle.
The toughest cases come when one kid is a superstar — athletic, obedient, kind, intelligent — and the other child is still trying to find his way. To this you say that love does not concern measurements, but the whole person, and that you know they have a place.
Perhaps in fifty years the superstar kid will be rich and popular, and the other just leading his life, but he will have found his place and maximized what he can do, and that is enough. No equality can match this estimation.
In other words, you are telling your offspring that they have a place in a world without equality, and that is what makes it acceptable to be who they are instead of telling them that they are only loved when they conform to your measurements.
People have individual places, and are valuable as individuals, which is who they are within not what they are on the surface. If they stay true to themselves, and understand your love, they will grow into something great.
Our neighborhood growing up had one guy who, objectively, was a loser. His wife worked at the school and he, having lost a few jobs, stayed home on the porch and drank. He worked on an old beater car and mowed the lawn with a rusty push mower, but otherwise did nothing “impressive.”
However, he was always there for his kids, and told them he loved them every day. He sat on that porch and if you skinned a knee, or there was some odd car cruising through the neighborhood, he was out there quickly to intervene.
Many a parent watched him tottering away after he led a crying child home, or talked to the police about that black El Camino that was oozing down the back streets. We all knew him and his cheery wave, and forgave him his unrelenting consumption of box wine and whatever beer was on sale at the local Randalls.
Similarly, there was another guy two streets over. He smoked Backwoods Cigars by the crate, but if your gadget broke, he was the guy to see. When your bike chain broke, he would fix and send you on your way with some encouraging words.
One older woman seemed to have nothing going in her life except her garden, but in it, she was a maestro carving out worlds in color and abundant plants. Once a year, we all got pears from her tree and they are still the sweetest I have had.
Modernity makes us sick because it tries to make us the same, identical factor units with different stickers or paint jobs. In reality, we are vastly different, but if we stay on the path to good, we exhibit the love of the universe that made us, and we are loved.