I’ve been thinking about equality lately. I suppose it goes back to the blog I wrote about worrying about one child more than the other, and then feeling guilty about it. A close friend tried to shape my fretting into a healthier perspective, as she, too, was “guilty” of paying more attention to her son than daughter at times.
“It may not always be equal,” she began. “But it will always be fair.”
Her comment hung in the air for a second. Aren’t we parents supposed to be both fair and balanced? Like a budget?
My friend continued. “There were days when Adam needed the extra cookie. There were days when Annie needed fifteen more minutes with me when I really needed to be at work. And that’s okay. We give them what they need, when they need it. That’s fair.”
Then she told me a hilarious story about her kids on Christmas Eve. Their preparations for the big day meant sitting under the tree counting presents to see which one of them got the most gifts. One for you, one for me…one for you, one for me…one for you…another one for you…
There is a similar scene in our house as I pull not-so hidden gifts out of the bedroom closet and display them in a variety of strategic ways. I found myself stacking a Nintendo DS on a pile of books to make it as tall as the American Girl box.
Maddening, it is.
This past week, Maryn’s sheets ripped in the washing machine. I went to Home Goods to replace them, but then I discovered a new shipment of pretty linens displayed in the children’s department. I guess it was time to take down the images of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny – after all, Ava’s 9 years old (don’t judge me). I left with two quilts, two shams, two sets of sheets, two dust ruffles, and two accent pillows – in the exact same print. Some people may say I have obsessive compulsive tendencies, but I say I have equality issues. Yes, I prefer that twin beds separated by a nightstand match, but I really prefer that no one gets something prettier or nicer than the other one.
The girls’ grandmother does the same thing. We have two of each toy in this house. Two Hello Kitty stuffed cats in the same outfit. Two Barbie Art Teacher dolls in the same classroom. Keep it equal, keep it fair, and no one gets hurt.
No one gets to be different, either.
My husband, Mike, shakes his head when I start divvying up belongings. I asked for an anniversary band not because I’ve been married for 15 years, but because I want each daughter to have one of my rings when I’m gone. Who gets the engagement ring? How do I decide that? It’s simple! Buy more jewelry! Ava gets the solitaire; Maryn gets the Eternity band. The same goes for my books. I saved two hardback copies of Kat Tales for each daughter. I painted two pictures of a girl holding an umbrella – one for Maryn; one for Ava.
“Are you planning on dying soon?” Mike asked.
No, I snapped. I just don’t want them to fight over anything one day.
“Oh, they’re not going to fight,” Mike added. “They’re going to scream WHY DID MOM KEEP ALL THIS CRAP? Two identical Julia Child cookbooks! Why two?!”
Speaking of books, Ava recently brought home a Social Studies reader and asked me to help her study for a test on female athletes. What is Title IX?
“It’s a law that says girls can play baseball like boys.”
“Sort of,” I replied. “It is a law, but it says that women have to be given the same chance as men to play and do well in college sports — if they get money from the government.”
She looked at me strangely. I should have left out the part about government funding.
“It’s to make sure girls are treated fairly and equally,” I summarized. Unless, of course, Maryn has a bad cold and she needs to sleep in my bed while you cry because I told you to stay in your color-coordinated room.
I heard my friend’s voice. It doesn’t always have to be equal. But it always has to be fair.