We were all sitting around the table one Sunday when one my grandfather's daughters-in-law asked him, "So, Dad, which of your children is your favorite?" (She had frankly accused my mom of being the favorite.)
Jake (which is what I called my maternal grandfather) had seven children: five sons and two daughters.
My grandfather sat quietly for a few moments with his head bowed and looked at his hands.
Finally, he lifted his eyes and looked at his daughter-in-law. Jake lifted his right hand and said, "See my hand?" And she replied, "Yes."
He began to move each digit, talking at the same time. "See? This is my thumb." Then he wiggled it. "This is my index finger." The appropriate finger moved.
"This is my middle one." Again he moved that finger. "This is my ring finger." His ring finger twitched. "And this last little one is my pinkie."
He looked up at her and pointed with his left index finger to his right palm, and said, "And this is the palm of my hand. When you're a parent, you are like the palm of the hand. Every finger is attached to you, and you need every finger to have a complete hand. If anything were to happen to any of your fingers, you would miss it and be very sad.
"It's the same thing as being a father," he continued. "I love all my children in different ways, but they are all mine. I would be heartbroken if anything happened to any of them."
It was very silent at the table for a few minutes. Then my aunt shook her head and smiled at my grandfather. "That's a beautiful way to explain things, Dad. Thank you for sharing it with us."
I've thought about that story and the wisdom of Jake's answer a great deal over the years. He did indeed love all of his offspring but in different ways and for different reasons.
The thing that I liked best about my grandfather's story is that he didn't bother to try to explain sibling rivalry, or go into long psychological explanations for why he felt the way he did. He didn't become annoyed or defensive, nor did he feel that he had to over- explain (or even start to explain, for that matter) his feelings. Instead he demonstrated that each of his children was beloved, each unique, and each important to him.
I've tried to emulate this concept when I teach. No matter what I feel about my students, I try to love them all the same. They are all special to me and I would be brokenhearted if anything happened to any of them.
Thank you, Jake.