Shelby asked a question long, long ago, and Great Big Procrastinator that I am, it is still in my file of things to do, so I’ll take a stab at answering her now.
…How do you handle “fairness” with so many children? I was raised by a mother on the force of the fairness police . She counted our M&M’s…down to the color . She relaxed a bit as we got older but I don’t know how to handle certain things at this point. Take bread making for instance. All of my children want to help me and make their own little loaf but there is only so much dough ! I love giving my toddler a ball of dough to play with like her sisters got to as toddlers but then they all come running for some and I feel like “mean mom” if I turn any away. At this point I think I may need to switch from making bread to making sub rolls , heehee.
Any thoughts? ~Shelby
I posted a while back on the issue of fairness in 7 Kids, 1 Sucker. Now What? but the subjects bears revisiting. What mother has not heard her children cry, at some point, “No fair!”?
My canned response (which the other children know, and often say before I can) is, “Life isn’t fair. If it were, we would all go to hell.”
That’s the short easy answer.
The longer answer is that fair is not the same as equal. Our children are not all the same and we do not treat them the same. The older ones have privileges and responsibilities that the younger ones do not. They each have differing strengths and weaknesses, besetting faults and special virtues. To treat them all the same would be…dare I say it?…unfair.
Having said that, there are certain areas where we strive for equality and others where we don’t. It is, in my mind, a delicate balance. On the one hand, we want some sense of equity so that our children don’t think that we have favorites. On the other hand, we don’t want them to feel as if going on the next outing is a right to be demanded.
This will work out differently in every family, and it works out differently week by week in our house. The point is to strive to treat our children justly.
When we make bread or pizza crust, the kids love to have a lump of dough for themselves. If I plan ahead, I might have enough for everyone. If not, I might only say yes to the first one or two who ask. If the same child always asks first, I might tell her no, we’ll let another sister do it this time.
When I go to town, I often take a child or two with me. Sometimes I need help and take bigger ones; sometimes I don’t need help and take a smaller one purely for fun. It would be impractical to take strict turns, because I wouldn’t always have the best companion for each particular trip, but I do try to see that each child gets a turn now and then.
As for counting M&M’s, I don’t sweat the details. If they grumble, I remind them not to covet, because this is coveting: the grumbling child is not unhappy that she has 10 M&M’s, but that her sibling has 12. If the sibling had 10 a coveting spirit would be satisfied. I ask ever-so-sweetly, “Are you unhappy with the M&M’s you have? Would you like to give them back?”
They may grumble occasionally but they understand that this is the way things work. Life is not fair, and nobody really wants it to be.