And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison; but Rebecca loved Jacob.
— Genesis 25:28

My maternal grandmother used to call my uncle Edward her “favorite” child. It was years after her death that I learned that this favoritism was in response to an estrangement between him and his father. While my grandfather was stern with all of his children, Edward seemed to engender a disproportionate amount of his irritation. According to family lore, there was nothing concrete Uncle Ed did to earn his incessant criticism: for reasons that eluded everyone, my grandfather simply disliked the boy.

My grandmother could not compel her husband to be more loving to his son, so she compensated by championing him. She coddled Ed to blunt the sting of his father's disapprobation. She trumpeted his talents and achievements. She gave the impression to the whole family that Ed was dearer to her than her own husband. Naturally, her favoritism of the boy became a point of contention with my grandfather (not to mention a cause of envy on the part of her other children). It seems to have caused more problems than it solved.

I recall this dynamic in my own family when I read of Isaac and Rebecca’s tug-of-war over their two boys. That story is, I think, a biblical example of favoritism employed to redress a father's neglect. Isaac is said to have favored Esau because he was a skilled hunter, and the father enjoyed eating of the son's game. Notice, however, how verse 27 does not similarly state a reason for Rebecca's favoring Jacob. It is as if Rebecca has no motive other than to couterbalance the favoritism of Isaac. Now, I wouldn't fault Isaac for having a preference for a venison steak--Esau's specialty--over the vegetable soup that made Jacob famous. It is sad, however, that predilection for meat was allowed to wreak such domestic turmoil. Isaac took Esau to his heart, Rebecca took Jacob to hers, and a major schism developed in the family. In time, husband and wife were working against each other: Isaac planned to clandestinely bless Esau; Rebecca, overhearing their conversation, plotted to deceive Isaac on Jacob's behalf. Protecting the interests of their respective favorite sons severely undermined their marriage. It also severed the family bonds, as Jacob's betrayal began a blood feud between the brothers (Gen. 27:41) and precipitated a twenty-year separation.

Although as parents, my wife and I do not always agree in the myriad of decisions regarding our son, we are conscious of how important it is to present a united front before him. The cautionary tale of my grandparents allowing a child to become a wedge--splitting in twain what God purposed to be one flesh--resonates with us. And we long ago realized that our boy has an Adamic nature that may even attempt to pit us against each other (for example, when one of us refuses him some desire, and he secretly takes up the case with the other). We have learned it is wise to put our heads together before making any promises.

Alliances with our kids in disregard or defiance of our spouses are ruinous. Ultimately, our children will suffer because of the insecurity that results from a divided home.

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I believe this is a great thing for parents to bond together and unite against anyone.  Children will often do this when they see division between the two.  Even tho they may not argue in front of the child, that child can always sense tension when the parents are at a harsh disagreement with each other.  And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.  When the two are formed together as God says, that bond is hard to be broken.  Regardless of who tries...

Great post.

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