Friday, May 4, 2012

Evening the Score

I love having a "big" (by today's standards) family of six. Sure it's loud as heck and there's lots of bickering. But in the grand scheme those minor annoyances are not such a big deal. We have fun. The kids play together and help each other. They have daily hands-on lessons in cooperation and team work. The four of them will have each other for always, and that's what makes me the happiest.

Sometimes there are challenges, I mean besides the typical damage control and mediation. One of them is Score Keeping. She got more/you love him more/she got to stay up later...etc. etc. I'm sure you get the picture, and even with two kids it's a challenge (I was a mother of 2 for a few years...). But with four it's more complicated and harder to keep track. At least for me, in my muddled Mom Brain. They probably each have the equivalent of a 100% accurate Excel spreadsheets stored in their little noggins, clearing showing how many times they each got to ride in the front seat, sleep with mom and dad, have a piece of candy before dinner, and any other perceived or real inequality anyone could possibly imagine. Me though, I'm just winging it. I've given up on keeping score because there is no way to keep everything 100% fair and equal.

Before I had children, I worked with a woman who had two kids, in the young adult age group. She would keep track, to the penny, (not exaggerating!), of how much she spent on each of them for Christmas. Because she just knew they would realize if all things were not entirely equal, she made sure to spend the exact same amount on each of them. In my naive pre-motherhood days, I thought she was nuts. And now that I have been in the mommy business for over 10 years, I see her point - but I still think she was nuts.

Life simply doesn't work in terms of pure equality. It just doesn't. It can't. All kids do not want and need exactly the same. They are unique. They need different amounts of time, attention, affection, and even material belongings. It's not possible to throw all their needs and wants on a spreadsheet and expect anything resembling an even score to come out of it.

We do our best to meet our children's needs, one by one, as they are expressed. Someone needs extra hugs and kisses, check. Someone gets a free pass on chores because of a busier than usual social calendar, check. Someone has a nightmare and begs to sleep with us, check. Someone has a ton of homework and needs a ton of help, check. And then there's the other stuff too. Like someone gets a special treat when accompanying a parent on an errand, and treats are not provided for everyone else. (scandalous!) Or someone gets to stay up a little late because the movie he or she is engrossed in is almost over. If you are a parent of more than one child, I am convinced  you deal with such inequalities on a daily basis. If you are in the midst of the baby days, this goes double. A baby who wants to nurse or just pooped his pants just isn't going to be very patient, and thus everything else gets knocked down a notch in order of importance.

And while we do our best everyday to keep things as fair as possible, knowing that pure equality is not possible but hoping that the scores are pretty darn close, at least; sometimes something comes up that sets the whole delicate system way off kilter. Like Bethany gets to go Florida, all by herself, to visit Chris's brother. And she gets to miss three days of school, and go to Disney, and go to a water park, and get Uncle Robby all to herself for 5 days, and do all kinds of other fun stuff.

It's a wonder our other three children are not ready to crucify us. But they are handling it surprisingly well. This is Bethany's Christmas present from my brother-in-law, and the long term plan is for the other kids to each have a turn when they are in 5th grade. Of course life happens and there are no guarantees, so we can only hope that they will each get their own special trip; and if they don't, that it doesn't scar them for life too badly.

There's really no way we can make things even in the neighborhood of equal for Connor, Lucy, and Mattie this week. But we still feel compelled to try, just a little bit. Thus it happened that last night, on a school night, Chris took Connor to see the midnight viewing of The Avengers. And let him drink a Pepsi Icee (we have a strict no caffeine rule around here). And let him take the day off school today...he was out until three in the morning, after all. While we're at it, why shouldn't Lucy get to do something special? So we let her take a day off school too. And she'll get a solo sleepover at Chris's mom's tonight. And maybe the three of them will do something with my mom tomorrow. Do our combined little efforts equal a trip to Florida and all it entails? Not a chance. We're not magicians, but we're doing our best.

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