Why Parents Should Stop Worrying About Fair and Equal

posted by Andrea | 10/24/2014

fair and equal

This is a post I’ve been itching to write for years already — but I didn’t think I would hold any “clout” on the topic until I had at least 2 kids.

So now that the “having two kids” part has been taken care of, I have a few (maybe more than a few) things to say about why I STRONGLY believe parents (and pretty much everyone else) should stop worrying and stressing about making every single aspect of our children’s lives “fair” and “equal”.

For starters… real life is not fair or equal!

In case you haven’t noticed, real life is rarely ever fair or equal — and yet we have all survived and learned to deal with disappointment and hard times. In fact, if I look back on my own life, those disappointments and majorly unfair periods of my life have often prepared me for new (and usually better) opportunities.

Yes, our present lives would almost always be better and happier if we didn’t have to deal with some of life’s “curve balls” but I’ve personally experienced greater rewards as a results of those more difficult situations (obviously, not all the time… but I think you get the idea).

When it comes to our children, life is not always fair either.

Sometimes one child gets a special treat while another might be punished for bad behavior. Sometimes one child is recognized for good grades in school, a musical achievement, or an athletic award while another child sits in the background. Sometimes, as parents, we do one thing for one child and a completely different thing (or nothing at all) for another child.

I don’t think that’s bad! 

.

I have a lot more to say on this… but I think it’s more helpful if I work it into few examples from my own life.

PHOTOS:

I’ve blogged about my digital photo albums several times already and almost EVERY SINGLE TIME, I get a handful of emails and comments from readers wondering how I plan to keep up with all the photo albums if we have more children. ‘Am I REALLY going to make one family album plus one separate album for each child every year?’

Well… I don’t know. If I have time, I will. If I don’t want to spend extra time on photo albums, then I won’t. Just because I am currently making Nora her own separate book each year doesn’t necessarily mean I absolutely MUST make a separate book for each child every year. My plan is to keep going with the separate kids books for as long as I enjoy it and am able to make the time to devote to it. If it ever becomes stressful for me or something I no longer enjoy, then I will stop.

Oh, and remember the cute personalized alphabet book I made for Nora 2 years ago? I can’t even tell you how many emails I got from disgruntled readers informing me that I was “setting myself up for failure” because there was no way I would ever have time to make one of those books for all my future children!

And, true story, I’ve actually had someone tell me that I’ll regret getting a 4-generation picture taken with Nora because I won’t ever be able to do that with Simon (Dave’s grandpa passed away several years ago).

Honestly, who cares! If Simon (and any potential other future children) don’t get an alphabet book or a 4-generation picture, I’m sure they will still live happy, fulfilling lives. I doubt they will even notice, let alone get upset. And also, who says I won’t have the time to make alphabet books for future children? Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Or maybe I’ll come up with an even better idea for personalized books for future kiddos.

2013-photo-albums

MEMORABILIA + SENTIMENTAL ITEMS:

For Nora’s baptism, I had planned to make her an outfit from my wedding dress fabric (yes, I chopped up my wedding dress) but then my mom told me she had saved the little dress I wore for my baptism. Since I REALLY liked the look of my old dress, I opted to have Nora wear that instead of making something.

However, when it came to Simon’s baptism, we didn’t have any passed-down outfits from Dave, so I made a cute little vest and shorts out of my wedding dress.

Both outfits were adorable and sentimental in their own ways — but over and over again, I was asked “Are you going to make something from your wedding dress fabric for Nora now?” or “I hope Simon has an outfit passed down from Dave too.”

Oh my word people — does it really matter!?

nora's baptism

simon's baptism

I can’t tell you how many emails and questions I get asking how to handle memorabilia and other sentimental items (specifically for children or parents who have passed away). I completely understand that those type of items are very difficult to purge, but they can also be a big source of clutter if we hang onto them all.

But… just because we save something for one child (like their coming home from the hospital outfit, their school report cards, a special baseball, or their graduation cap) or one relative (like their wedding dress or special book or photos), that doesn’t mean we absolutely must save that exact same items for all other children, friends, relatives, etc.

The following is taken from one of those reader emails (used anonymously with her full permission):

Hi Andrea,

My son just started pre-K this year and he comes home with papers EVERYDAY and he wants to keep them all! I would love to be able to keep a bin for him so that when he is 18, I’ll have some sentimental stuff from his childhood to give him, but at this rate, he will take over a whole closet! I just don’t know what to keep and what to get rid of. My husband says that I always just want to get rid of everything (which is slightly true) but I am willing to keep items for my son and daughter.

For example, I accidentally gave away my son’s coming home outfit from the hospital. For some reason, I kept the hat from the outfit and the baby blanket from the hospital but not the outfit… so since that appears to the “tradition” that I have started, we will only be keeping my daughter’s hat and baby blanket from the hospital. I felt bad about this for a while but at this point, I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

Here is my response to the bolded section above (I also shared ideas about paper clutter, but that’s not relevant to this post.)

As for the coming home outfit and blanket, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not feel like you always need to do the same thing with every kid. I know so many moms who do that and almost drive themselves nuts trying to be exactly equal all the time, spending the exact same amount on birthday and holiday gifts, buying the same number of clothes for each child, saving the exact same things, giving the same graduation gifts, etc. etc.

Your kids will not care so it’s totally not worth stressing about.

I understand “traditions” and how fun those can be, but they should never be something that makes you feel guilty or bad if you don’t do it for one year or one child. You are right, it’s not that big of a deal and if you feel like keeping your daughter’s coming home outfit, just do it. I’m sure your son will survive and thrive even if he only has a hat and his sister has the entire outfit 😉

Anyway, that’s what I have to say — I bet you’re sorry you asked now!!
Have a good day!

She responded back immediately and explained that she was an only child so she just figured that with two kids, everything should be equal. I’m happy to report that she is now planning to keep her daughters entire coming home outfit even though she only has her son’s hat! 
.

GIFTS:

Oh boy… here we go (in case you can’t tell, I feel somewhat strongly about this topic!)

PLEASE do not feel like all of your children, grandchildren, friends, or any other family member need to get exactly the same number of gifts or the same price-point value of gifts. That is not the purpose of Christmas or birthdays or weddings or graduations or any other special occasion.

Let’s say you bought your 15 year old an iPod (which he wanted) but your 5 year old only got a couple of board games and a new sweatshirt (all of which she wanted). Do you think the 5 year old is going to have a tantrum because her shirts and board games didn’t cost the exact same amount as the iPod? Probably not. In fact, she might be even more excited since she go to open multiple presents and your teen only got one.

And just because you give one friend or neighbor something, doesn’t mean you need to give all your friends and neighbors something, or that you have to continuously give those friends and neighbors something every single year from now to the end of time.

The majority of people will never notice or care about this — and if they do care, they might not be the type of people you want to be exchanging gifts with anyway! Please consider this as we approach another holiday season 🙂

christmas gifts

.

Now, before you start thinking I’m a big Scrooge, I want to make it very clear that I LOVE traditions and the ideas behind saving certain sentimental items. I think it’s great when you have fun things to look forward to and fun traditions to uphold year after year; or when you can figure out a way to repurpose something sentimental to use in your own life (I’ve done this many times and it’s so rewarding!)

I have no issue with you buying your girls their first American Girl Doll when they are 7, or throwing each child a special “Sweet 16” birthday party, or giving the same number of gifts to each person at the holidays… as long as it’s not stressful for you. However, when you’re obsessing about finding another $2 item to add to one person’s gift pile so everything is totally fair and equal, THAT’s when I think it goes too far. 

If it so happens to work out where everything is “even-steven”, great! If it doesn’t work out completely fair and even, I have a feeling that, more often than not, you will be the only person who notices or cares — so please don’t stress yourself out about these types of things.

Fair and equal are not requirements for our children (or other family and friends)… and I know my life has been simplified by not stressing over this.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

top photo source

113Shares

Filed under: LifeFamilyParentingChildrenHolidays

Leave a comment

67 comments

  1. Kelly

    10/27/2014

    Got to put this post into practice today (I read it a few days ago when you posted)… we opened a 529 college account for our daughter when she was a baby, mostly because we had one a contest on facebook and got $1500 to start it out! (You had to put it into a 529 – sponsored by the company that has the account).

    We’ve liked the automated savings it allows, so we’re planning to open a second one for our new baby, due in a few weeks. My husband suggested this morning that maybe we should try to transfer half of the $1500 prize winnings to the new baby’s account, so that their accounts are equal.

    We’re not even sure, though, that we CAN transfer out of the account, and I was so happy when I remembered your post and said, “You know, maybe let’s just acknowledge that it won’t be exactly fair and equal!” And my husband agreed once I explained the reasoning. 🙂

    I am a middle child, so I’ve seen how everything kind of works out in the end among children. My older sister often got more opportunities and gifts (she received an American Girl doll as a gift whereas I had to earn the money to buy one, etc.) but my younger brother has had a lot more one on one attention and benefited from my parents (naturally) having a higher salary by the time he came around – international vacations, meals out to eat, etc. I fell somewhere in the middle.

    I also see that some of the things that don’t seem “fair” resulted from “unfair” or unfortunate circumstances in the first place… I now realize that my sister received the American Girl doll when she was having a very hard time socially at school with a group of mean girl classmates… something I never had to deal with.

    Good thoughts!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — that’s awesome Kelly! I definitely agree that it would not have been smart to try and split the winnings between your two kids. What would you do if you had more kids in the future? That would get pretty messy!!

    So glad the words of my post helped to simplify a small part of your life 🙂

    [Reply]

  2. Kelly L.

    10/27/2014

    Andrea, you are a voice of reason in a world of anxious, neurotic, stressed out parents. Thanks for that!

    [Reply]

  3. Shelia B.

    10/27/2014

    Loved this post. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing people give presents to all the siblings when it’s only one siblings birthday. For example, someone tried to give all 3 of my children a gift when it was only my son’s birthday saying they didn’t want the other two feeling left out. Hello – they’ll have a birthday too within the year. Or buying the children a ‘special treat’ because they behaved in a store. UM NO!!!! you behave because that’s what is expected or you’ll get punished. I’m old fashioned in some regards. I think we coddle children way too much. Call me cruel, but i tell my kids (14 yr old twins and 10 yr old) all the time when they complain of something not being fair…Life sucks, deal with it.

    [Reply]

  4. Donna Bruce

    10/27/2014

    I think you are totally correct about this. I have a 4 generation photo (as does my cousin who is a year older than me), but my younger brother doesn’t. It doesn’t bother him. My brother only keeps things which are useful to him, whereas I have various little things which I keep because they have sentimental reasons.

    [Reply]

  5. Edie

    10/26/2014

    Great post! My mil used irritate the mess out of me and my husband at Christmas with the “fair” gift giving. She stressed herself out (and overspent) trying to make sure she spent equal amounts on her four grandchildren. Over a couple years time, the life circumstances between my husband and his brother were very different as my bil was recently divorced with custody of his two children, and in a difficult financial situation. She did a lot for his children, providing their Santa gifts as well as the gifts from her given at the family Christmas gathering. Of course she also gave our two kids (baby and toddler age at the time) gifts from her at the family Christmas. But to be totally fair and equal, she sent home huge bags of wrapped gifts for our kids to open later, enough to equal the amount she had spent on their cousins’ Santa gifts!! It was completely unnecessary as we weren’t having money problems, and was just total overload. We ended up hiding them from the kids, unwrapped them, and would occasionally bring out a new toy over the course of the year. After a couple years of this, and many requests from my husband to please stop, she now has limited it to a couple gift each Christmas. Now to get her to stop giving the un-birthday child a gift on my other child’s birthday… (She is an amazing lady though, and such a wonderful mother-in-law!)

    [Reply]

  6. Sara

    10/26/2014

    Andrea, another amazing post. I agree with every single thing you have written. I used to get really fed up of people offering an opinion on my life choices that was not welcome. Now I just ignore people – they have their views and I have mine. Life is not fair, no one ever said it was going to be and people who whine about ‘that’s not fair’ will never be happy. We didn’t all get to be the cleverest, the most creative, the most beautiful or the most wealthy. We got what we were given and we make the best of that.

    And another thing – that outfit you made for Simon from your wedding dress was just fabulous. The fact that you did something different for Nora doesn’t change that or change the wonderful thought you put into her outfit.

    I love your blog, read it every day.

    [Reply]

    Sara Reply:

    Oh and another thing. This ‘everyone is a winner’ concept drives me crazy. They do it in primary schools in the UK and it just creates a whole heap of problems when the kids go to high school and realise that actually some people are indeed better at some things than others. Imagine that!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Sara 🙂
    It was really fun making the outfit for Simon (I’m SOOOO glad I did it).

    And yes, Life is not fair!

    [Reply]

  7. Tracey

    10/25/2014

    I completely agree with you. I have a friend who drives herself nuts every Christmas trying to make sure everything is equal for her grandkids. If she buys a gift that costs slightly more she then feels she has to run around and get something else for everyone to make up for the one that costs a bit more. You can imagine how it spirals out of control from there. Interestingly enough they seem to be a most entitled group of people. She regularly shares stories about someone getting mad about what they did or didn’t receive, so I don’t believe it creates harmony or equality at all, just a sense of entitlement and not being able to deal with the real world.

    [Reply]

  8. Melissa Q

    10/25/2014

    My favorite part of this whole post: “oh my word people”.
    Can I just say “ha!” and “amen!” to that….

    [Reply]

  9. Deb

    10/25/2014

    This made me laugh. My brother is 6 years older and back in the day when “Hard Rock Cafe” t shirts were popular, I asked my Grandma for one since she lived in Honolulu and I thought that would be cool. So, I got the t-shirt and my brother got a check for $100. One of us was really “cool” and beyond stupid! Lesson learned……..

    [Reply]

    Katherine Reply:

    Haha- this made me laugh! Think of all the t-shirts you could have bought for $100!

    [Reply]

  10. Garnet

    10/25/2014

    Considering the normal ratio of pleasant to judgmental comments, I’m surprised there aren’t more judgey ones on the page. I guess the fact people can email them to you makes up the difference.

    I was the first legitimate grandchild on my mother’s side (because my cousin Lisa was a step-grandchild) and the first granddaughter on my dad’s side (pink stuff ahoy!). I was 1 when two girl-cousins were born and 2 when my own sister was born. My life changed so dramatically. Worse, the adults constantly pointed out the differences, even ones I didn’t remember on my own. I was no longer given anything I wanted, spoiled to death and the most important princess of the universe. Even better, my sister was my mother’s mother’s favorite (even named her) so by the time I was 4, I was fed up with everything. I informed the adults they were idiots and refused to believe anybody just because they were a giant compared to me. I’m short and haven’t changed much. 🙂

    I applaud you so hard for understanding the need for individuality over grey-mucky-sameness with your kids. Each of my siblings are intelligent, creative and hardcore about their hobbies. We are so different from each other, even in those categories, that it isn’t that surprising that a lot of the issues we had with each other stemmed from somebody being stepped on and denied access to their particular path for the sake of fairness to the others. I’ve tried to remember anything we really fought about as kids that didn’t come from one child lacking directly as a result of an adult trying to make things fair. Setting aside things like car accidents and that magnitude of event, I can’t think of any unrelated fights.

    I love reading what you do to repurpose important items rather than keep them undisturbed. I always remind myself to ask, “Would I leave something else behind to save this in a fire?” If the answer is no, I usually decide practicality level (and pretty factor) and whether it would be sentimental enough to somebody else to pass it on.

    Thanks for continuing in the face of negative blow-back. That you wrote a post and shared information as your response to it is awesome.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Garnet! Dave and I both laughed when we read your comment! I actually agree, I figured I’d get more “push back” on this post. But I’m pleasantly surprised how positive and “agreeing” almost everyone is.

    I certainly do not expect or require that all comments agree with me 100% — but I do delete comments that disagree with me in a very rude or offensive way because no one needs more negativity around here 🙂

    [Reply]

  11. Traci

    10/24/2014

    I am the mom of 4. My two oldest children are 29 & 30. My youngest children are 14 & 9. The biggest regret I have about parenting is constantly trying to be ‘fair and equal’ with my girls. Not only was it very hard, but they now resent some of the efforts. My sons (the younger children) are being taught that not everything in life is fair nor is it equal. Both are happy and well adjusted and they expect less than their sisters before them. I think you are definitely on the right track.

    [Reply]

  12. Melinda

    10/24/2014

    I absolutely adore this post and agree 100%. We’ve been having a problem with my in-laws who believe that all siblings should always have the exact same amount or else there might be )(gasp!) jealousy! This all came to a head earlier this month when they came down to visit for my son’s 4th birthday. My son was opening his gifts and then they made a big show of making sure his sister got an even number of gifts (3!) from them! My children are 4 and 5.5 and COMPLETELY understand that they don’t get gifts on other people’s birthdays. However, when my daughter got gifts for her brother’s birthday, her brother couldn’t understand this–he thought she was opening HIS gifts and tried to take them from her. In short, we had 2 epic meltdowns with the kid and a very unhappy mother (and 2 grandparents who thought Mommy was being unreasonable).

    Okay, vent over…in short…I love this and posted it my FB wall!

    [Reply]

  13. Marie

    10/24/2014

    Although I agree in theory, I’d like to see if you have the same opinion when your kids are older. We didn’t always spend the same amount at Christmas for each kid, but wanted them to open the same number of presents. Who wants to watch a sibling open ten presents after opening your one (even if it is expensive)?

    If I had to pay attention to everything I did for child #1 so I could do the same for child #2, however, I’d go crazy.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Marie.
    I don’t want to say for sure what I’ll do in the future — but I will say that growing up, we didn’t necessarily get the same of everything (nor do we now as adults) and we’re all OK with it.

    I guess it just depends on how you open gifts. We didn’t do the thing where everyone opens one gift all at the same time — so it was less obvious how many each person got.

    And yes, I totally agree that I would probably never give one child 1 gift while another got 10 — that’s a little extreme. I think, overall, you’re doing what you do because you enjoy showing your kids you love them — not because you’re stressing over every little detail being totally equal. For me, that’s the important thing 🙂

    [Reply]

  14. Sherry Pelfrey

    10/24/2014

    Fair & Equal?…ahhh phooey! How about Befitting instead? If we truly believe each child is unique, special, and individual then why isn’t our treatment of them reflected that way? Our time, gifts, sentimental crafts, and valued activities should be individualized and custom for each of them – not matching and “equal” as some say. Our kiddos are smart; they know when something given or done is “obligatory”. They are not robots!

    Rewards, punishments, treats, and lessons should befit the individual character and behavior of every family member. Celebrate that each of us is different! Love should be demonstrated in a multitude of ways.

    I’m a Grandma now. And that’s how I roll. 😉

    [Reply]

  15. Janice

    10/24/2014

    Good grief! We do our kids a terrible disservice by enabling them to grow up with an unreal set of expectations that everything should/must be fair and equal. First thing a person should learn is that their kids, neighbors, friends, coaches, etc. do NOT have equal personalities. We have 2 kids and 6 grandchildren and I can tell you they are certainly not equal in their temperaments. I hate all this ridiculous political correctness, however, it’s been around for a long time ’cause I think Cain killed Abel because he was ticked off about how God liked Abel’s sacrifice better than his.

    [Reply]

  16. Tori

    10/24/2014

    Hi Andrea!
    I have been reading your blog for three years, and I am a fan of your site! You inspire me with your organization and decorating. I am grateful for all of your posts as they are so so helpful. Whenever you write about organizing, cleaning, or post pictures of your beautiful home, it makes me want to work on my own home! It is truly a blessing!

    I will say that I do not ALWAYS agree with you- but I admire your honesty and straightforwardness. I appreciate that you are open and direct with your readers. I respect that a great deal! I think it is rediculous that people feel the need to make negative comments to you about your posts, photos, traditions. Why on earth would they take the time to do that?! Of course we don’t all feel the exact same way about raising children, hospitality, etc.

    This post however was exactly what I needed to hear as a young mother with two babies. How can we expect to have everything in our children’s lives fair or equal or both? It is an impossible and silly standard to try to meet. I find this especially true with a boy and girl. Not to be sexist- but my son and daughter do not both want play trucks and play dolls! They enjoy different things, and those things are not always equal. What happened to trying to treat our children as individuals with individual tastes and desires? My son and daughter also do not value the same things. My son will probably not be jealous of an outfit that my daughter is thrilled to have. He’s just not that interested in clothing, while she loves new apparel! Each child is different.

    Also, you are so right about life not being fair! We are not doing our kids any favors by setting up unrealistic expectations.

    Thanks for this post! Best wishes to you and your sweet little family 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Well thanks Tori! I would never expect anyone to ALWAYS agree with me (even Dave doesn’t always agree with me!)
    Also, it sounds like your little fashionista would get along well with Nora 🙂

    [Reply]

  17. Daniele

    10/24/2014

    I completely agree with you!!! My sisters and I were raised with the EXACT same thing nearly all of the time. Our bedroom furniture was exactly the same, we all did the same activities and lessons (regardless if they were enjoyed or not), and etc…etc! One side effect was that my sisters and I were competitive with one another. Honestly, I don’t hold it against my parents…they had their reasons, now as an adult I can understand more their personal “why”.

    However, I do think it is just ridiculous to attempt this type of “fairness”, especially from the beginning of parenting. It is WAY too much pressure. I have 5 kiddos ages 20+ to 5 yrs old and it is just not worth it. If kids aren’t raised with the expectation of having everything the same, so far I have found that they just don’t care. Kuddos on this post!

    [Reply]

  18. Valerie

    10/24/2014

    I agree with the examples you give here completely. I do think at times the fairness issue can cause legitimate concerns. I think this is not the case for most parents but when some of the “bigger” issues aren’t kept somewhat fair it can lead to one child feeling severely left out and unloved. My husband grew up in a family like that. He had to work for most things he got (car, college, etc.) But his two younger siblings had those things handed to them. There’s nothing wrong with working for a car and college, and actually can be quite beneficial, but when his siblings didn’t have to (along with many other big ticket items) it led to feelings of inadequacy that have been difficult to overcome. When it feels like your parents don’t deem you worthy of similar things, the hurt can run pretty deep.

    [Reply]

  19. Tami

    10/24/2014

    Our guys are in their twenties now and they seem to be fairly well adjusted adults. They were reared with the “Life’s not FAIR” advantage. Our guys heard it over and over, “life isn’t fair” and it relieved a lot of stress off of my husband and I as parents and our guys didn’t have to keep score cuz…life isn’t fair!

    Keeping track of money spent at Christmas to the penny can take the joy right out of giving. We tried to give them things that they needed or wanted in our price range.

    That doesn’t mean that we don’t hear from our youngest that he didn’t get to go camping as much as his brothers and from the older two that our baby got to go to Hawaii with us more than they did. Oh well, life just isn’t fair… 😉

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I always give my mom a hard time about how long she made me wait to start shaving (6th grade) when she let much younger sisters shave earlier — and the fact that my youngest sister always got to take a friend on vacation after me and my other sister were off to college!

    [Reply]

  20. Laurel

    10/24/2014

    Andrea,
    All I can say is that I LOVE THIS POST! I could go into great detail about how almost every single thing you have touched upon in this article has my name written all over it. I wish I would have heard this advice 24 years ago as I have spent so much time, energy, money and anxiety trying to keep things even in almost every regard for our four kids. And you know what? I think they recognize it and while I have thought they appreciate it (which I am sure they have to some extent), I think they now totally expect it. I am embarrassed to even tell you a tiny bit of what I have struggled with over the years. But one example comes to mind: All of our kids have played instruments and are fairly accomplished. The ones that are college age or older have played in Big 10 marching bands, concert bands, etc. Well, we purchased new trumpets that are quite expensive for the both boys for Christmas gifts when they were/are in HS. The girls however were able to use instruments that we have (my husband and I are musicians by profession) that are ours and quite expensive and professional quality. Anyway, I have thought and thought and thought about if I should make this even out. I even went as far as to figure out how much we have spent over the years on dance classes, costumes, competitions, recitals etc (a lot!) on the girls to see if that would even it out in my mind so as not to feel so guilty about it. I could reach right through the computer and hug you for what you have said here. I will not obsess about this anymore. Like I said, I could have used this advice 24 years ago!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh my — I’m SURE your girls will not be offended at all. It sounds like ALL your children have had fabulous opportunities their entire lives. And who knows, maybe the time will come for you to do something extra special for your girls that would not be applicable to your sons.

    No more obsessing — and hugs right back to you 🙂

    [Reply]

  21. Cynthia

    10/24/2014

    Favorite quote: A fair is in the summer with smelly animals!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha… yes, Someone left that quote on my facebook wall too!

    [Reply]

  22. Leslie H

    10/24/2014

    I beg to differ with you on this one, Andrea. I am not as concerned about being fair and equal with gifts outside of my family, but with my own kids, and little nieces and nephews, I do my best to make things equal. Little eyes are watching and noticing, and interpreting with their own incomplete knowledge.

    In fact, you mention in your illustration of the ipod and the 15 year old that the 5 year old might be happier because she had more gifts to open. Isn’t that an acknowledgement that fairness is an issue to kids? What if it were reversed? How would the 5 year old feel? A 15 year old can handle it because he understands value. A 5 year old, not so much. When my kids were small, I usually had the same number of presents to open, regardless of the values inside,.

    I realize that moments of inequality are great character building moments, and I did want my kids to understand and experience that life is not fair — and learn to deal with it. There’s plenty of opportunity for this lesson to be learned. I chose not to make Christmas morning at our own home one of those times.

    Usually, there are gift situations with extended family where my child can learn to be gracious when there seems to be inequity. But since I see my gift giving as an expression of thoughtfulness, and caring for my kids, I want them to feel no inequity there.

    I agree with you that we can make ourselves crazy with trying to keep things equitable — and some of this is ridiculous. You can’t make each child’s experiences fair and equal…Younger kids always get to do more at an earlier age just because of their position in the family.

    However, the fairness of receiving tangibles from your parents is an issue that continues through lifetimes. Just think of how many good families end up with issues as they disperse their parents’ estate!

    All this to say, that I believe there are some areas where it is important to make sure our kids understand that they are loved and valued in equal measure.

    [Reply]

    Nellie Reply:

    Interestingly enough, my children understand that they are loved and valued in equal measure BECAUSE I try to give them what they, individually, need (and want). To us that means I see, love and value YOU, the unique person that has unique needs (and wants) that are different from your siblings, and for that matter from your cousins, friends and so on. They also (seem to) realize that since they are at different stages in life they cannot get the same stuff or treatment or whatever and as we as a family evolve circumstances change so that what a younger sibling gets now he is ten might not be “equal” to what I got when I was ten.
    What it all boils down to might be that love and value are not measured by the amount and/or value of the stuff you get.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I like how you phrased that Nellie — and I think you’re right. I’d rather get a smaller, less expensive gift that showed me the gift-giver actually put some thought into the gift than just something generic so everything was “fair”.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes yes yes! I agree with you too.
    I think the fact that you don’t obsess over spending the exact same on each child is a healthy balance. I just don’t like it when the holiday season (or birthdays or weddings or whatever) are diminished to a dollar amount spent on gifts.

    It’s the thought behind the gifts and teaching our children to be gracious and thankful.

    [Reply]

  23. Chris

    10/24/2014

    I wanted to mention something that doesn’t really have to do with fairness. But you could still do a four generation picture with Simon, you, your mom, and your grandma, even just a snapshot. Perhaps you have already done that. ~ Smile ~ but it would be a beautiful memory. And even one with him, Dave, and Dave’s Dad. I don’t think it can’t be called a 4-generation photo because it is, but I realize perhaps in different regions of the country it is only the males or females, etc. I love your blog. I like to read it daily and it may be my very favorite (besides my church one 🙂 )

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Chris — and yes, we have PLENTY of pictures. I don’t think anyone will feel left out as they look back through all their photo albums 🙂

    [Reply]

  24. Rebecca

    10/24/2014

    Andrea you’re preaching to the choir – I totally 100% agree with you. As a mom of 5 ranging in age from 7 to 16, it is not possible to be fair and equal at all times. Our kids aren’t always happy about it, but generally understand and agree.

    With our oldest, I was the classic overprotective mom and he didn’t spend the night at anyone’s house until he was 12 (mainly because I didn’t know the families that well). After having 5 kids, I’ve relaxed and realized they need that freedom from me as much as I need a break from them occasionally. I’m a SAHM, small business owner and my husband travels extensively so I end up being a single parent pretty much every week. Our oldest thinks it’s unfair that I let our littles spend the night when they’re 8, but he never got to do it. Such is life – I can’t go back and change it and I realized I was wrong, so I’m correcting that.

    I’ve followed your blog for a couple of years now – I really like the simplicity of it. I also really like that it’s not loaded with ads like so many other blogs are. I’ve stopped following several blogs because of the annoying ads. You’re doing a great job – thanks for sharing your insights.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Rebecca — I’ve worked really hard to keep my blog simple and relatively ad-free. Obviously, the ads are a big reason I’m able to offer all the information and resources her on my blog completely free, but I don’t ever want the ads to take away from the content 🙂

    [Reply]

  25. Debby

    10/24/2014

    Amen, once again Andrea. I have always just bought my kids what they needed. If one needed jeans, the other girl didnt automatically get a pair because a month from now she might need something the other child didnt. My mother in law thought this was awful. I think that people that have such big hangups about this stuff are carrying around issues from their own childhood. My MIL would buy my two girls the most ridiculous age inappropriate items because she was trying to be “fair” and had bought my two nieces something. There is a 12-14 year age difference. I would tell her you don’t need to buy something for my two everytime you do it for them. She wouldnt hear of it and I cannot tell you how many things were just sent off for donations and never used by us. So much money and energy wasted. Another perfect example, my two older nieces wanted those popular charm bead bracelets. They are age 27 & 30 now. My girls did not want them but my MIL still bought them for my 16 & 18 year old. Even after they told her they don’t like bracelets. (Before she even bought them). So after she purchased them to be “fair” we had to emphasize to her that these were way too expensive and the girls would never wear them. She finally relented and took them back. The whole thing was exhausting and uncomfortable. Thank goodness my husband stood with us and backed us up. I know in her heart her intentions were not to cause them any ill feelings, but I feel like it back fired. They felt disrespected for not listening to what they were telling her. What they would really have loved was time with her or attendance at one of their sports events. Those things are what is really important and priceless. Thank you once again for this honest approach to life. This one really hit home for me.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    WOW… that’s rough. Those charm bracelets are CRAZY expensive!

    And yes, I know our kids are young, be we’re pretty practical and basically just buy what they need 🙂

    [Reply]

  26. Kristin R

    10/24/2014

    firstly what I took away from this is why on earth do people feel the need to be judgemental and then email you their opinions. I’m glad your confident in your own opinions to brush them off!

    I too hate this all equal thing. It would be unrealistic to even try. I will one day regift to my baby daughter the kitchen my eldest daughter played with 5 years ago – and I won’t be tallying up what I spend on who when. And if you start it the children then will come to expect it.

    Sorry this is a sore spot with me – along with everyone is a winner and gets a prize!

    [Reply]

  27. Roxanne

    10/24/2014

    I think you’re right- people deal with too much self-induced pressure. If the first kid has a baby book that documents every detail (“wearing the outfit from Aunt Margaret”), every milestone (first sneeze), every keepsake (travel-size baby shampoo bottle) and the second kid has a baby book that says “Baby was born and is now in 2nd grade” then that’s just fine 🙂

    [Reply]

  28. Patty

    10/24/2014

    Well said AND so so true!

    [Reply]

  29. Kym

    10/24/2014

    I have four kids – three boys and a girl, and long ago had to give up any notion of being “equal” in how we did things with each of them. Because they’re older (oldest is 22, youngest is 13) I have heard their complaints from time to time that something wasn’t “fair” or that it wasn’t the same for one as for another. Nope, it wasn’t. And it won’t be. I remind them – and myself, and other moms who need the reminder – Equal isn’t necessarily fair, and it’s not always fair to make things equal.

    [Reply]

  30. Lee Cockrum

    10/24/2014

    The comment/complaint about the 4 generations photo is particularly crazy to me. why would you avoid a wonderful photo because the other child could not have the same photo???

    As for the rest, I do admit to trying to keep gifts for Christmas somewhat equal, but I try not to stress too much over it. And you are so right about life not being fair or equal. I try to remember that when acquaintances make a comment about our income, or how much money we spend on hobbies. We both work, and we were never able to have kids. We support various charities and help out family members. So if I get to spend more money on crafts than you do, go home and hug your baby. I’d happily have traded all my crafts for a baby, but that option was not given to me.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — that must be hard to hear those comments. I think people often don’t truly process how the other person is going to interpret what they are saying.

    [Reply]

  31. Leah

    10/24/2014

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I remember growing up that my grandma always had to give my cousins the exact same gifts as my sister and I got for Christmas. Luckily for us she always got the gifts my sister and I wanted but it was never something my cousins really wanted. In her efforts to be fair, she was actually really unfair to them.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh no — sad for your cousins who never got appropriate gifts! just give cash if you want to be totally equal 🙂

    [Reply]

  32. Pamela

    10/24/2014

    AMEN! Preach it, sister! 🙂

    I agree completely. My life will not be simple (or joyful!) if it’s OVER-organized (all things exactly equal all the time).

    You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. And my 3 kids hear that on a regular basis.

    [Reply]

  33. Julie Spadys

    10/24/2014

    I TOTALLY AGREE!!

    [Reply]

  34. Becky

    10/24/2014

    As the second child (my brother is two years older than me) I definitely noticed some differences over the years (like my brother having a baby book, and me not), but it’s never been something I have truly felt upset about. I joke around with my mom about it, and refer to my “plight of the second child” but in all reality, I had a great life growing up, and a great relationship with my brother and my mom, so when it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter if you are completely “equal” in all things for your children. Good post.

    [Reply]

  35. Katy

    10/24/2014

    Great post. To the people who emailed you about the four generations picture…I took a picture with both my son and daughter and my mother and grandmother…and I consider that a four generations picture…so I’m not sure why some of your readers were so upset. I guess I don’t define a “generations picture” by gender.

    I think this is a great post. We live in a world of participation ribbons and trophies for everyone…and in a world with no winners, there is little motivation for kids to work hard, when the child next to them gets equal recognition for less effort. This is not to say that there probably are cases when participation ribbons are appropriate…but we have become so concerned about hurting someone’s feelings that we don’t celebrate the achievements of others.

    [Reply]

  36. Eileen

    10/24/2014

    Great post. I have college aged kids and I know things weren’t always “equal”, but I can’t recall it ever being an issue. I probably felt more ‘guilt’ about being a working mom as compared to some of their friends with SAHMs — and even that was a waste of time, because our financial situation was different than others.

    And trust me — teenagers will complain if they think they are getting treated differently than a sibling, but in our experience, they ALL complain that the other kid gets away with things (or gets to do things) as compared to themselves..so I’m guessing we’re doing ok, lol.

    [Reply]

  37. Leanne

    10/24/2014

    first of all… people have WAY too much time on their hands…
    we have a real life “not fair” situation that developed this summer…
    My oldest son, Christopher, got really sick and developed a condition called gastroparesis…so he’s on a ton of meds and on a very strict low fat, low residue diet– that I don’t make my other two children follow! and when Christopher has had to go the children’s hospital for tests, I often buy him some small “souvenir:… and the other two don’t get something– because they didn’t have to go through the testing/surgery/ swallowing icky stuff….etc… and they were getting special attention from grandma and grandpa while mom was away!
    and frankly, each child is different– we take different ones on dates–do different things– to both show them they are special and reward them for special achievements….
    I think we just have to have the right perspective about “fairness” in God’s eyes, too…. basically, none of us were treated “fairly” in God’s eyes because he gave us Grace… and I remind my children often of that… I know that’s not a popular perspective in today’s parenting! but, I think its a powerful reminder that we basically live a very blessed life… every thing else is “icing” on the cake… and in the words of a famous preschool teacher (my son’s!)– YOU GET WHAT YOU GET AND YOU DON’T THROW A FIT!!

    [Reply]

  38. Organize 365

    10/24/2014

    I think we do put a lot of pressure on ourselves to parent “equally”. I remember 2 examples of this when my kids were between 4 and 8.

    The first was when our daughter was diagnosed with a big disability at the age of 5. The psychiatrist actually said, “I’m glad your daughter’s diagnosis is as time big as your sons so they both get your focus.” Who in the world says that to a parent who has 2 children with significant special needs? We are GLAD they both have disabilities?!!! I don’t think that should ever be “fair and equal”!

    The other was when we pulled the kids out of their Montessori school , which I LOVED, and we sent them to two separate schools – 30 minutes apart in distance. Each child’s school excelled at meeting their needs and it was a huge hurdle for me to look at their educational needs and realize that siblings could go to two different schools.

    I still struggle with “fair and equal”, but I am making progress!

    🙂
    Lisa

    [Reply]

  39. Paulette

    10/24/2014

    And by the way, another thing being done nowadays is the trophy for everybody on the ball team. We’re teaching our children to have expectations that aren’t realistic! Ok…off my soapbox now.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I was one of those kids who hated the “trophy for every person” because I knew there were SO many people who just didn’t put in the effort and were getting rewarded just as much as the people who put in tons of effort.

    [Reply]

  40. Paulette

    10/24/2014

    Oh.my.word. Are you kidding me? You get emails from disgruntled readers about this issue and about not having a four generation picture for Simon?!? It’s as if people sit around looking for things to be upset about. Really, people?!? My hat’s off to you, Andrea. I think some of those comments would aggravate me greatly.

    [Reply]