I am a mother of three, and I treat one of my kids differently, and I have done so since she was born. Before you judge me, however, let me just state for the record - she is not my favourite child.
I know this to be true because I don't have a favourite child. I adore all of my children, and each tugs on my heart in entirely different ways. (They also infuriate me in entirely different ways, but that is another story.)
Still, my youngest is spoilt rotten, whereas my other two are not. And while I'd like to lay the blame entirely on my husband, I accept equal responsibility for allowing it to happen.
Though it seems unlikely, given my recent track record, I was a fairly strict parent when my first two kids were born. I enforced bed times, and nap times, and healthy eating, and baths. Tantrums were managed with warnings and time out, and, if that didn't work, the withdrawal of TV. There were no lollipops in the morning, teeth were brushed twice a day, and we only bought cupcakes once in a blue moon.
But I have been far less strict with my youngest daughter. I have absolutely indulged her - although, to be fair, so have her father and siblings. My little girl was born three weeks after my sister died, into a grieving family, and she was just the injection of joy we needed. Her brother was eight, and her sister was six, and it had been a long while since a baby had been in the house. We cuddled her, and coddled her, and devoted our lives to making her smile, and she rewarded us with love and laughter. My daughter was my saviour, and I have clung to her ever since.
Of course, I cuddled and coddled my other kids, too, and they, too, rewarded me with love and laughter. I was, and still am, entranced by my older children. But I was very focused on being a "good" parent. And so, I was careful about the number of treats I would give them.
I refused to allow them to carry around their security blankies after they turned three. And I never, ever slept in their beds, because I knew that small children need firm boundaries.
Well, it seems I left the boundaries in the hospital when I gave birth to my baby five years ago. My youngest has eaten Freddo Frogs after breakfast more times than I care to remember. She still carries a tattered "blankie" around and I have rarely even tried to discourage her. And I have slept in her bed with her, on many an occasion, without her even asking. I offered, simply because I love to cuddle up with her. I do it because it makes me happy.
It did occur to me over the years that I might suffer later for indulging my daughter, but I cheerfully pushed those thoughts away. I didn't care about later. Later was in the future. I was enjoying my baby now.
Well, now it is later, and I can't push the thoughts away. Because I am suffering. Oh, how I'm suffering. My darling baby has grown into a heavenly little girl - a heavenly little girl who considers herself to be the owner of our family. A heavenly little girl who believes that she should receive whatever she wants. And whether what she wants is a slice of apple, a slice of apple pie, or the birthday present intended for her friend, is utterly inconsequential. She wants it, and so she should receive it, now. And if she does not receive it, she will cry. Loudly. And she will cry for a long period of time.
And then there is bedtime. Yes, what fun we have at bedtime! You see, my daughter does not wish to go to sleep at 7 pm like other five-year-olds. She wishes to go to sleep at 9 pm like her much older brother and sister. And because I have frequently allowed her to stay up - because she's cuddly and cute and I like to have her on my knee - she believes that it is her given right. And if she does not get to stay up, she cries.
So where do I go from here? I created this beautiful monster, so do I just have to live with her? Well, no. As my mother tells me, it is not fair on my daughter to be spoilt. Life will not continue to indulge her the way her family has. And once she is less cute (actually, strike that, she will always be cute), once she is older, she will get away with far less.
With this in mind, and with the fact that she has started school, I have resolved to be firmer with my little angel ... I mean, little girl. Of course, this leaves me racked with guilt, as it is not her fault that I have spoilt her, and now she is being punished for my mistakes. That crumpled face as I tell her she can't have a third biscuit, those fat tears of disbelief that Mummy is suddenly being so mean, are slowly breaking my heart.
But I am persisting with my mission because it is time for me to grow up - and to allow my beautiful daughter to grow up, too. She may have been my saviour, but now I need to be hers, by becoming a stronger mum. So, no breakfast lollies, late nights, or extra gifts. And no carrying blankie around. But I'm not cutting down on the excessive cuddles. That would be asking too much.
Follow Kerri on Twitter: @KerriSackville
From: Sunday Life