Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fair is Fair... Or Is It?

I grew up in the middle of a large family. I am the fifth of eight children. As a child, I remember being obsessed with everything being "fair." I had to have the same number of cookies as my siblings. It was the end of the world if I felt like I was doing more chores than someone else. I was always watching to make sure that things were even and fair. My mother did a good job and went out of her way to make sure that we all were treated well and had everything we needed, but I still remember her reply when I thought I saw injustice and cried, "Not fair!" Mom would simply reply, "Life is not fair."

Now, I find myself in the opposite role. I am the mother of a (somewhat) large family. My struggles with being fair began as early as the NICU. I worked out a rotation for holding babies during my time there. Paige, however, struggled some at birth and I was not able to hold her for a few days. Once I could hold her, should she get extra cuddles to make up for lost time? How could I be most fair?

In the 2 1/2 yrs since the NICU, my worries about being fair have surfaced in dozens of other areas. When I am out with the kids by myself, Paige really craves freedom from the stroller. Not only does she want to walk, she can be trusted to stay close to me and keep her hands to herself. Well, some of her co-quads simply can not be permitted to walk on their own yet. They wander off or touch things they shouldn't. Is it fair for me to allow Paige to walk, while others are forced to stay in the stroller? Is it fair to force Paige to stay in the stroller even though she can behave so well?

This is an issue even just in "Mommy time." Some of the kids really want to be with me nearly all of the time, while others are more independent and are completely happy by themselves. I feel guilty sometimes about how much time a couple kids spend in my lap or arms, but if all of the kids are happy, is this really unfair?

I even already worry about the future. What if one does well in school with little effort, while another struggles to maintain a 'C' average. Am I going to set the same standards for these kids?Is it fair to reward one child for an 'A' and another for a 'C'?

I have worried about this for years now, and I have finally reached a decision. I don't discuss politics here, but the is not my position on world politics, only my parenting in my family. In parenting, I am a socialist.

"From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."-- Karl Marx

From here in, my focus is going to be more on my children as individuals. This doesn't mean that I'm going to stop trying to be fair. They will likely always receive similar size gifts etc. I mean that I will try to fill each child's individual needs, while encouraging each child's individual abilities. This may mean that one child seems to be getting more assistance at one point or another may receive more praise at. I cannot guarantee things will be equal. The only thing I can promise will always be equal will be my love and commitment to each child. I love each of these kids with all of my heart. I am completely committed to filling each child's needs and assisting and encouraging each child's growth. I can hear my childish self crying, "That's not fair!" Yeah well, "Life is not fair."


  1. Very nicely put! I think I heard that saying from my parents a few (100's) times too! I only have 2, have the same fear. Like you I finally realized I can't hold one back because the other is move advanced in something. After Todd and I went to the BB game last Sunday, I told Todd Molly would love it, but Luke wouldn't hold still long enough to enjoy it. We both said well maybe next year we can take them. Then I realized why can't we take Molly without Luke? Luke would have just as much fun at Nannies house, so we are going to try it before the season is up. Now I just have to work on not feeling guilty! Hope your Sunday is great!

  2. OH, love love love this post, Beth! Such a common feeling, I'm sure ... but definitely magnified with multiples. Love the quote, too.

  3. I think this is a great post, Beth! I know this sounds crazy (and I am questioning whether I should admit this aloud!), but - as an only child - my first experience with the issue of "fairness" was when we got two kittens after we got married. I was worried that one spent more time in my lap, and I played with the other more. I finally learned that they were each getting what they needed from me.

    I have to remind myself of that with my girls sometimes, although I know (like the example you gave with schoolwork) that this may get a lot harder before it gets easier.

    [OK, I'm going to post this cat comment. Can you see why I think my dad secretly worried I would become a crazy cat lady before the girls were born?!] :)

  4. Okay I wrote this LONGGGGGG comment that I lost but I will not rewrite. But...I think this is a great post and great decision on your part.

    By the way, don't know if you are on Facebook but if you are I would love for you to find me - Kimberly Pace Janak

  5. I go through the same thing with 4 kiddos different ages...what a balancing act! Love the quote that you posted.

  6. Great post!

    I just found your blog and am enjoying reading about your busy little family. (Yes ... you are a "little" family compared to mine.) :)

    Anyway ... LOVE this post. My dad was the opposite of your mom. My dad insisted that everything be "fair". He is now 92 ... his 3 "kids" are in their 40's and 50's, and he still insists on "fair", without taking anything else into consideration.

    As the mama of 12 children, I realized a very long time ago that I did not want to focus on "fair", but that I would always do my best to meet the individual needs of each individual child. I'm glad to hear that you have realized this as your children are still young. Even with quads, each one of them has individual needs. (I have identical twins, to which that also applies.)

    Hope your week is BLESSED!

    mama of 12 (ages 9, 9, 11, 12, 14, 17, 20, 22, 22, 24, 25, 26)

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