Nothing is fair in love and war…or cupcakes and siblings. Try as we might, we can’t provide the same childhood experiences to each child we may be blessed with (and I use the term blessed with all due respect owed to whomever and whatever Creator, omniscient being, doctor, partner, scientist, birth mother, surrogate, stork or dumb luck fairy you might believe it is owed). I remember reading an article once about how these two kids who grew up with the same parents, in the same house, had drastically different recollections of certain of childhood events. I remember thinking, “of course they did!”
We all approach each situation with different eyes and expectations. We look at the same exact thing and see different things. Eyewitness accounts vary greatly when people are interviewed after a crime is committed. One saw a 6 foot ten, pasty twenty-something. Another saw a red hat on a kid of about 5’ 7”. Another saw a knife with a black handle and nothing else. It is it any wonder that kids in the same house, experiencing the same thing recall it differently? I have a sister. She and I have not compared notes, but I am as sure as my face is freckled that my sister has a different recollection of our shared childhood on a number of major points.
Still, if we are blessed to be parents of more than one child, we feel this desperate aversion to disparateness, a compulsion to make things fair–to make experiences, and gifts, wardrobes and quality time spent with each kid fair. Is it the kids’ doing? Are they begging for things to be fair? Well, by the time they are 4 they certainly are.
“It’s not fair!”
It’s a frequent refrain in my house, an insipid earworm that will not vacate the premises in my head. I hear it all the time from my 4 and 6 year olds. And, I know I played a role in composing this lyric. Through my actions and words I have emphasized the importance of fairness, of justice and equality, of everybody gets their turn. But now… well…there are 3 of them. There is no way on the dumb luck fairy’s green earth that I am going to be able to make life, let alone their childhoods, fair for these 3 people. They will not have the same things, the same experiences, the same lessons, the same opportunities. Sometimes that will be through their own choice, but sometimes—most times—not. My first-born had almost 2 full years of uninterrupted attention, and we have the almost daily photographic record to prove it. My third-born will have to become my Facebook friend and then go back to my 2012 newsfeed to find his “baby book.”
If you’re still wondering what this is all about or maybe hoping for helpful tips about how to make it all fair—I’m sorry. This is not about how it’s all going to turn out fairly for our kids, or even about how it’s okay if it doesn’t. I don’t know if it’s okay. I hope all three of my kids are okay someday.
I hope that at least they all know how much we loved them every second they were here (even when we were wishing they had a mute button) and how much we wanted them to have the best life possible and to be the happiest people they could be. But I’m not going to wish for fairness, or parity or equality…whatever you want to call it, anymore. If I do, I’m setting myself (and them) up for disappointment. It’s an impossible goal. They will have different experiences. They will be given different gifts and learn different lessons as they grow. They will remember the same holidays and family events in drastically different ways. They will be loved—but life will not be fair.
Pretty bleak for a Monday, right? I know. Then again, I was 15 minutes late getting out the door this morning because my 6 year old needed to discuss [correction: stomp her feet, roll her eyes, emit dolphin-like squeaks that I think were supposed to be words and cry so much that I became worried about dehydration] how unfair it was that she and her younger sister were at the same birthday party yesterday and she only got one piece of cake while her sister had cake AND a cupcake—a fact she learned at breakfast this morning from that younger sister. Ugh. The injustice of life is just too much to take some days. I could have told her that the number of cupcakes each person consumes will eventually, over a lifetime, equal the same number consumed by one’s sister, but she’s 6–and old enough to know that’s just bullshit. So instead, I kissed her tear-drenched cheek and whispered, “Cupcake counts, like life, aren’t fair.” Then I shut the door.
Still, I’ll probably bring home a secret cupcake to share with her tonight. What can I do? I’m a sucker for equality…and cupcakes.