Friday, September 13, 2013

Fair versus Equal - I need to stop playing this parenting game.

* This post contains affiliate links!

Recently Little Lady has grown enough that it was time to switch from an infant car seat to a convertible seat.  Since we also had a trip up to my parents' home planned a few weeks ago, I wanted to make sure that her seat was switched before we made the drive.  So, after doing my research this time around on car seats, I packed everyone up in my car and headed out to our local baby superstore to grab a new seat.

why my kids won't have everything be equal but we will raise them fairly
A pic I snapped on our trip
{If you all want to, I can post a comparison between Little Man & Little Lady's seats, as we went with a new brand this time around - and give you my reasoning why.  Just let me know in the comments!}

When we got to the store, I was able to find the seat fairly quickly and had some lovely employees carry the huge-normous box to the front of the store - seeing as I was wearing Little Lady and pushing Little Man in a cart.  I needed to grab one more item for Little Lady, so we headed toward the back of the store prior to checking out with our purchases.

And then the mommy guilt hit me.

Before I go on, I want to preface this a little bit.  I love my parents so immensely much, and I think they did a fantastic job of raising my sister and me.  We grew up in a family full of love, comfort, and support - and there is nothing I'd change about my childhood.  Not one thing.  But there are a few things I will do differently as a parent.

See, because when I was growing up, my parents made sure that everything was equal.  If one child received something, so did the other.  I remember even on birthdays when we were younger that the non-birthday child received a gift - just so things would be equal.  I mean, heck - it STILL happens.  There are times when {love you mom, hope I'm not getting you in trouble!} all of a sudden there will be a mystery donation in my checking account, followed by a message that my sister needed something and they wanted it to be equal.  And I'm sure it goes the other way as well.

While I understand why they did things the way they did now - I think that concept was totally lost on me as a child.  I remember one instance where a friend of mine won a really cool toy through a drawing we'd both entered, and I'm sure that I had a complete breakdown about the fact that I hadn't won.  It was a concept totally foreign to me that things wouldn't be equal in all situations, because I'd always been given, even when it wasn't needed at all.

why my kids won't have everything be equal but we will raise them fairly
photo from amazon
{Side note: I remember that toy like it was yesterday, how cool it seemed - anyone else watch Home Alone and want one of these?  Guess it isn't so surprising I turned into a speech pathologist who records speech samples from clients for a living!}


So back to real time, as we walked through the store - I stopped and got something for Little Man.  Since both of the items I needed to purchase were for Little Lady, I automatically stopped, picked up a toy for Little Man, and we went on our way.  It was almost like I was functioning on autopilot.  I felt guilty that she had and he did not, so I made things equal and purchased him a toy.

why my kids won't have everything be equal but we will raise them fairly

{The toy above is the PlanToys Plan Preschool Bee Hive since you all wanted to know!}

But - really - that's the exact opposite of a message I want to convey to my children.

I mean, first things first - not to be cliche, but... Life Isn't ALWAYS Equal.  There are going to be plenty of times when they'll be passed over for something my children felt they deserved.  It could be as big as a job or promotion or a little as a gift or gesture.  And I want them to have the adequate coping skills for when that happens.  It doesn't mean that they deserve it any less or are worth less of a person, it's just that things happen and life doesn't always go your way - and that's okay.  If I'm making sure everything is equal and each child gets every extra every time, I feel like it can lead to entitlement very quickly - which is something I did struggle with as a younger adult.

Now I'm obviously not talking about basic needs.  Because my childrens' basic needs will always be met, no matter what I have to do to make that happen.  But buying my son a toy specifically because his sister needed a car seat?  That's pretty unnecessary in my mind.

Also, I really feel that by receiving a gift at every birthday party of my sister's, I never really learned fully how to be happy for her.  Instead of learning the immensely important skill of celebrating someone else, I was always thinking about what my one gift would be on that day.  Even as a young child, it's not inappropriate to think that empathy can be learned and taught.  Some of these same lessons I was taught as a child by keeping everything equal kept from me valuable lessons in cherishing other people for their full worth, mainly because I was so focused on myself and what I would get out of the scenario.

Finally though, as my children grow and become older - they're going to need different things.  Just because they're both my children, that doesn't mean that keeping things equal by always giving them the same is going to work for us in the long run.  Little Man and Little Lady are very obviously different people, each so beautiful in exactly their own personality.  By telling them as they become older and more aware that everything will be equal {including rules, rewards, etc.} - we're only setting them up for failure.  Because in that scenario, Little Man has one set of rules that really work for him and he expects to be equal for Little Lady - but when she gets to that point and the same rules don't work for her, he is left with disappointment in us for not keeping our word and she is left with entitlement, feeling that the rules don't apply to her.

And that's just not what I want to teach them.

When we returned home that night and I watched Little Man play with both his new toy and Little Lady's car seat, I realized exactly what I'd done, and what I've already started happening in our family.  And I'm vowing to stop, right now.  There will be times when they will both be rewarded and celebrated at the same time - and even in the same way.  But, I am promising to myself, to DH, and to our kids that we will raise them in a manner that is fair -

But not always equal.

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9 comments:

  1. I'd love to know the reasoning why...we're almost to the new carseat stage and the one you purchased is one I'm looking at

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  2. Jayne, I love that toy! Would you mind sharing where you purchased it from?

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  3. I completely understand what you're saying! And I think it's important other parents do, too. When I was very little, and it was just me and my sister, my mom would purchase us each gifts for all occasions. But as our family grew, it wasn't realistic, because eventually, there were 3 more siblings in the picture. And I never minded not getting something. Because I did understand it wasn't about me, but on down the road, it would be. So it was okay. And I plan to raise my son with the same skills you will be trying to instill from now on. I think there is a huge problem in trying to treat children equally. It is an insult to their individuality as a person. Different children have different needs---just like adults. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Ditto to two comments above! I'd like to know more about the toy AND your carseat choice!

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  5. Great article. We have 3 children and it seems when one of them needs something or happens to receive something it makes it that much more special for them (not the others). I do not feel guilt - I feel proud that we can all relish in that joy together.

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  6. Commenting for the first time. I need to know where you got that toy! I love it. I think my daughter would love it. Thanks!

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  7. I updated the link to the bee hive toy above! :-D It is a pretty awesome toy, I do have to say. :)

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  8. We're going to be purchasing a convertible carseat before the end of the year. I'd love to hear about how you came to pick the one you did. Thanks!! And good message. We only have one LO right now but definitely a parenting decision we'll have to make one day.

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  9. I had a TalkGirl and thought it was amazing!

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