The Family Equality

As parents, it can sometimes feel like we haven’t got all the answers, and that we don’t have it all together. I know that 99% of the time I feel this way. Take what happened this evening.

Mary Poppins was on television. I guess it started around 8 or 8.30. Now most of our children have a bedtime of 7.30pm, with the exception of Olivia(8.30pm) and Sebastian(9pm). Also, during holidays, we tend to be a little lenient, but often the youngest ones are still in bed as close to 7.30 as we can. Well, tonight, everything was going fine, until Laura, one of the 7.30ers, happened to get out of bed and see that Mary Poppins was on. She successfully negotiated with her mother, to stay up and watch.

When 9pm came, I told Sebastian to head off to bed, at which he expressed his absolute disgust (in the nicest possible 14 and a half year old way) that his younger sister was allowed to remain up while he was to go to bed. What a Dilemma!  This actually happens often in our house. The Privilege of having a later bedtime, has now morphed into a right which also allows for an extension when one of the 7.30ers stays up. Specifically, the argument from tonight was” how come someone who is younger than me is allowed to stay up later than me tonight?”

There are so many circumstances which occur in family just like this one. Equality and fairness is often a subjective issue, fuelled by a number of different things: position in the family, differing levels of justice, societal influence and many more. It is really hard to find a position which makes everyone happy. (Sounds like life!!)

So how do we, as parents navigate this jungle of intertwined rights and privileges, all the while maintaining the parental position?

It’s not easy, and often it feels like its only going to get harder.

I think Michelle puts I into perspective quite well: I love my children uniquely, but not necessarily equally. I know that can seem a little unfair, but when you think through it, it makes sense.

Our take on it is that love is often expressed differently according to the needs and desires of the person. We see our children express their love for us in very different ways, as well as demanding love from us in different ways. If we know our children well enough, we can see through the anger, moodiness, tantrum or tears, and identify what the cry is for.

As for our dilemma this evening, there is the parent rule that I only invoke sometimes: it is like that because I say so, and I’m the parent!! Sometimes, no matter how we try, things just do not end up as fair as all parties would like. In our family, we have a saying that life isn’t fair. Having said that, we always try to make sure there is some other way to show that each child is loved uniquely, if not always equally.

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