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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Who Said Life Was Fair?

Fair does not necessarily mean equal.

I read this statement in a magazine article a while back. I have found that being equal is often far easier than being fair. Being equal avoids quite a lot of sibling conflict.

With two girls who are 20 months apart in age, I struggle with this whole concept of equal. Invariably, I buy two pairs of matching shoes in appropriate sizes or two matching toys because Kira wants what Marisa has and Marisa wants what Kira has. On the rare occasion that one gets something different, the other immediately proclaims a desire for her own matching piece of the puzzle. This is particularly true with shoes. As you all know, girls adore shoes. By the age of 2, every girl absolutely must have at least 20 pairs of shoes to pick and choose from. In my house, we have two sets of pink crocs and two sets of orange crocs. We have matching sandals and matching tennis shoes. However, we also have sets of shoes that are not duplicated. Kira has shoes that were given to her by our neighbor. Marisa has shoes that Kira used to wear.

Marisa recently received her very own set of purple crocs because the pink and orange crocs were a bit too big for her. Kira, upon seeing these new purple crocs, determined that she needed purple crocs, too. Imagine her surprise and dismay when I informed her that she would not be getting any purple crocs because she did not actually NEED them. She was very disappointed, to say the least, yet she quickly overcame her disappointment at learning that she had just been gifted with two full bags of "new" clothes from our new neighbors who have a daughter just a year older than Kira. Kira was overjoyed by the process of sorting through all these new and wonderful presents and quickly forgot that she had been denied a shiny, new pair of purple crocs.

The day will soon come when I will have to deviate from duplicates even more, as my children already display very different talents. I expect Marisa will be into those sports that include throwing balls and running, while Kira shows a tendency to dance and artistic expression. Their schooling interests will also take different directions at times, so their lives will not always be equal.

The key to parenting siblings with different interests and needs is to understand that you, as a parent, are not required to be strictly equal in order to be fair to each child. You simply need to supply each child with an equal opportunity to fulfill her potential. Be aware that equal opportunity does not guarantee equal results, though. While you strive to provide each child with the appropriate opportunities, it is up to your child to succeed or fail. In this matter, you must also provide equal encouragement and equal support. If you find that your children's events present you with conflicts, find a way to compromise so that you can fully support each child in a fair way.

Perhaps someday my girls will outgrow the desire to dress alike and follow each other around. Until then, I hope my neighbor continues to supply me with bribery material for those times when one child needs something that the other does not.


SoccerMom said...

We use that fair equal at Christmas often! When the kids were a bit younger. There is 6yrs difference so when she was content to have dolls he was starting into the Electronics so we explained to him he will be getting less items but we will be spending about the same amount of money on the two of them.