Thursday, January 10, 2013

Parenting: Fair or Equal

I've been thinking about this post for some time and I've actually started writing it twice. It never seems to come out the way I want it to.  This morning, Ken and I had another conversation that brought up this topic and I've decided I'm just going to get it all out.

It's not fair!!
I'm sure all the parents out there have heard this exact whine many, many times over the years! To be honest, I admit to thinking it and occasionally expressing it myself.

In reality, though, usually the whiner means "I didn't get exactly the same things as that other person I am currently envious of."

Frances says it a lot when her brothers get something she thinks she wants.  Like Henry's Calming Caddy.  She cried and cried after I explained it to Henry.  I tried explaining to her that she doesn't have issues with anger management.  I ever showed her that most of the tools in the basket were duplicates of things in the toy box.  No go. She was still upset.

I think what she really means is that things aren't equal.  And really? They shouldn't be.  My kids should be treated differently because they need different things.  Frances is older, she is treated to more responsibilities than her brothers. That often translates to more chores or higher expectations, but it also means staying up later than the boys, being able to do things on her own occasionally and having more extra-curricular activities.

On the other hand, Benjamin gets away with more than the older two.  He "gets" to throw a tantrum when I pick out the wrong socks or ask him to try a bite of casserole.  He's two.  That's what two year olds are expected to do.  It's about learning boundaries and finding out where you end and others begin.  I was just as permissive with the other two when they were that age!

Henry is stuck in the middle .  Poor kid-he doesn't get all the privileges afforded to an older child and he can't get away with all the stuff that his younger brother does.  But I try to be fair and give him what he needs. That's why the Calming Caddy is all his. It's why I signed him up for a Big Brother.

What I've been trying to think through and put on "paper" is the difference between fair and equal.  Everybody doesn't always get the same things. (In real life, people often are not treated fairly or equally, but that's not a part of what I am getting to here.) Sometimes people get vastly different things because they have vastly different needs. 

I recognize that need for kids-to want what their siblings or friends have.  I understand why Frances gets upset.  I feel badly that she feels badly.  But I am not going to make her a Calming Caddy.  She doesn't need it.  I understand why Henry get upset for getting in trouble for throwing the same tantrum that Benjamin is throwing.  But he doesn't get to act two. Because he isn't anymore

As I am getting my thoughts down about this, I realize my main stumble in writing this has been myself. I originally thought it was a post about parenting and kids.  But it's not. It's about me too.  I am realizing that I need to read this message too.  I don't always get what everyone else has.  Sometimes that's because there is no guarantee that life will ever be fair or equal. But it's also because

maybe those aren’t the things I need.  I should be reminding myself that I have everything I truly need.  

I am well taken care of.  I may not always remember that, but it is still true. I have what I need. Sometimes more; but never less.  Even the times I thought I had less were times of great growth for me. So there ended up being a point to having less.

I need to be a better example to my kids of being thankful for what we are given and not always wanting more. I need to be satisfied with what I have a where I am, rather than spending all my time pining after something that isn't meant for me anyway.


  1. Being an example is always a good idea! I would also think just talking to them about the difference would be helpful. I believe kids understand more than we think they do.

    When I would whine, "it's not fair" as a kid my mom would say, "Life isn't fair. Get over it!" and so I did. It was actually some of the best advice she ever gave me because as a child I sincerely thought life was suppose to be fair and equal. Her comment opened my eyes a bit and made me feel less picked on and more normal.

  2. I think you are a wonderful parent,(parents) and you TALK to your girl. Life isn't fair or rather "equal", which is a good thing to learn early in life. It gives you a chance to really shine with what you do have.

    I am an oldest child, by 4.5, 5.5, and 9.5 years. So, you can see that a lot fell on my shoulders. I think it made me stronger and wise beyond my years. But it stole my childhood, or was one of the factors in that. My uncle met me for the first time when I was 13, and after awhile he said to me, "You don't ever act like a kid, do you?" He was saying this very sympathetically and kindly.

    So, it's a tightrope to walk, for parents, and I truly understand how you are feeling sometimes. I feel my mother did the very best she could, and the older that I got the more I appreciated her.

    L. who really loves your blog.

    1. Thank you, L. Siblings are a hard thing for me. My older brother is enough older that he was out of the house for much of my youth. My younger brother is close enough in age that I don't remember a time he wasn't there.

  3. I love your balanced view on this. I always thought my mom paid more attention to my sister, but as I got older I understood she was trying.

    1. Thank you! I hope that's how it turns out at our house too.


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