Let’s face it – there is almost nothing worse than being accused by our children of being unfair.
Even perceived partiality of one child over another is one of the most dire parenting faux pas we can commit and must be avoided at all costs.
Good luck with that.
It took most of us becoming parents ourselves to realize the utter futility of this effort. The very offenses we bitterly railed at our own parents for when we were growing up, are offenses committed on the daily by most of us.
I remember when my sister, brother and I were kids, every time our beleaguered mother would so much as pour us a glass of milk, we would ram our glasses together making sure she had poured us all the exact same amount. It’s a wonder we didn’t break more glassware.
I’m not sure why I cared, I didn’t even like milk.
After 30+ years of parenting 5 kids of my own, as well as observing everyone around me raise theirs, I’ve learned a few hard and fast rules to the fairness game:
1. The more children you have, the harder it is to be fair. If you want to keep things truly “even-steven” among your kids, you’d be wise to stop at one child.
2. If you do go for more than one child, it’s easier to at least appear fair if your children are different genders: they’re slightly less likely to covet one another’s goods and/or privileges.
3. It’s harder to be fair when your offspring are spread out over many years. Because your resolve weakens considerably as you start to weary. You begin to employ phrases like, “We are choosing our battles!” – which your older children will accurately and loosely translate to mean, “We are too tired to care!”
So, in summary, if you don’t stop production at one child, at least try to have one boy and one girl close together in age.
Otherwise, you’re pretty much screwed.
When our oldest child was born, we had very high standards for the way she would be brought up. We also were very young with very little money, so we mandated a “no-spoiling” parenting policy which dovetailed conveniently with our total lack of discretionary income.
She and I both vividly recall a time, while we were living in Arizona, that she asked for permission to attend a trip her high school Spanish class was taking to Spain. When she told me about the steep price tag that accompanied the trip, I knew it was an absolute no-go for a plethora of reasons. But mainly, with 5 kids, I didn’t think I could afford to establish a precedent for my brood to assume they’d be dashing off to Europe any time some teacher fancied.
We moved to Oklahoma shortly afterward and she became the living embodiment of the Three Dog Night song, “I’ve never been to Spain, but I’ve been to Oklahoma!”
A few years later, when she was in college, we were able to see the value in her university’s Study Abroad program, and assisted in bringing that dream to fruition.
She still mentions the other trip from time to time.
Fast forward a little more than a decade. We have everyone almost raised. Two have graduated college and law school. Our 3rd is just a few credits away from her undergraduate degree and more-or-less “off our books,” which leaves just two in the nest.
Much more manageable from our perspective. We can almost see the finish line.
As such, and without even realizing it, we have eased up a bit. For example – our son is in California this week watching his college football team play in the Rose Bowl. Granted, the trip was his Christmas present, but it was still exorbitant enough to raise some beautifully arched eyebrows among his older sisters.
We are sheepishly trying to pass the trip off as “Study Abroad.” Isn’t California like an entirely different country? Or how about an educational trip for a Liberal Arts intercession class? Where better to learn the “Art of being Liberal” than California?
One day recently, my youngest daughter sighed heavily and said, “I really want to go to Europe…”
“God help me,” I thought. Sure I’m tres and muy sympathetic that all those Europeans are over there living her dreams, but seriously?
Ever the creative mother, I distracted her with a compromise. We binge-watched The Crown on Netflix instead.
I must say, it was comforting to note that this problem isn’t unique to us commoners. Even the gentrified offspring on that show didn’t think their parents were fair. And their parents were Sovereigns for crying out loud.
God Save The Queen (and all the rest of us…)