Friday, November 14, 2008

Separate but equal?

When your kids are little, you take great pains to create a fair world. When the second child is born, the first child receives little gifts to reinforce that both are precious and welcome. As they get older, you continue the evening up. When one child gets a new pair of shoes, you go ahead and fit the other child. When only one cookie is left, you cut it precisely so that each child receives 50 percent. (A 50.1 percent cookie and a 49.9 percent cookie will be noticed and subject to a recut.) If an activity cannot accommodate both of them, you take turns and promise to even the score next time.

But one day you realize that life has other plans. One kid kicks a soccer ball like a pro, the other runs like Twinkletoes. One child sits down at the piano and masters each piece, the other struggles to play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

Even worse, the world isn't evening the score. One child is a social butterfly, with invitations for playdates and sleepovers clogging the phone lines. The other child gets an occasional invitation to a birthday party. One child draws attention wherever she goes. The other is more likely to be overlooked by her teachers, her classmates, the general public. As much as you try to cover up for the inequities, they notice. They're perceptive little souls.

As a parent, you tell your kids that you love them equally. But as the kids grow, you realize that just as the world can't treat them the same way, neither can you. They go through phases where one of them is more challenging, and they take turns wearing that particular label. And you find that even though you love them equally, you love them differently. You even admit that yeah, sometimes one of them is easier to love.

So you strive to find the common ground with the one who is testing your mother love, because that's what mothers do. You never give up on the love, even when you're hearing that you're the worst mother ever. You strive to keep things equal with them while teaching them that no, life isn't ever going to be as easy as splitting a cookie two ways. You tell them that you love them both, but you show them that there are different ways to love, and you care enough to find the way that works for you.

2 comments:

Amy said...

Oh absolutely right. I was just feeling guilty today that I've blogged more about Charlie than I have about the other two. Ironically, it's because he has, of late, been providing more challenge than the other two. I mean who wants to read a blog entry about the tween who is mature beyond her years and more helpful than I deserve? But in real life, she is a bit easier to love at the moment.

Lorir21 said...

I think every mother deserves at least one helpful child at any given time. It keeps us from using duct tape on the others.