Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fair does not mean "the same"

This is a popular saying in our house, "fair does not mean the same."  When you have kids between 7 years and 7 months fair cannot mean the same.  If Madeline throws something her consequences are not the same as if Ben throws something.  And rewards are not the same either.  What is appropriate for a kindergartner is not always right for a 2 year old.  I'm certainly not feeding the 7 month old the same as  the almost 5 year old.  And I don't have problems with this.

Today it occurred to me that this saying, "fair does not mean the same," also is true when it comes to activities that I enroll my kids in.  Madeline and Owen take gymnastics classes because they like them.  If one stopped enjoying the classes we would stop going with that child.  Madeline and Owen went to many playgroups as younger kids because they liked them.  Madeline did music classes with her Nana and loved them.  We tried them with Owen but he kept saying he didn't want to go.  We pushed a few times (thinking it was control, not dislike, that prevented him from going).  But after several months I realized he didn't like the class and my mom stopped signing him up.  Everyone was happier.

Today I had a realization with Ben.  For the past 6 months I had him enrolled in a weekly playgroup at a local children's museum where I volunteer.  I have been taking the kids since Madeline was 2.  Until now there were no issues.  Madeline still talks about these playgroups.  And Owen remembers going and is sad we go on a day that he is in school.  But back in November Ben started telling me he didn't want to go.  At first I thought it was simply 2 year old stubbornness and desire to control the situation.  Ben has this stubbornness in spades- he will tell you the sky is green or that it is sunny when it is raining.  That is just Ben.  So we tried over and over and over again.  Some weeks it went very well.  Other weeks he cried the minute we got there.  And I kept pushing thinking I was failing him if I stopped taking him since I took the other two.  But then a few things happened.

For one we missed the last three weeks do to scheduling issues and he didn't ask about it once, not one mention aboust this playgroup.  That was my first clue.  Then he started complaining the minute  I mentioned it today.  That was the second clue.  Next when we got there nothing would convince him to go inside.  In the past I could get him in for some part of it.  Today he wanted nothing to do with it, I had to go in and had to carry him crying to get what I needed.  That was clue number 3.  So I gave in and we came home, 10 minutes after arriving.  As soon as he was in the car he was cheerful again.  And then when we got home he was happier.  He made no mention of the museum or the friends there.  He played happily with me while Wyatt napped.  And that was my fourth and final clue.

That is when I realized that "fair does not mean the same" can apply to scenarios like this.  I am not a bad mom for giving in to my 2 year old's wants during timeslike these.  There are times where he cannot make the choices, there are times when what I say goes for many reasons.  But for things that are for him, things that are supposed to be fun and playtime activities, well shouldn't he be able to choose whether we go or not?  I finally realized that yes, this make sense.

So we are taking a break.  The playgroups run for the school year and take summers off.  I plan to not attend any more sessions this school year.  We will use the playground over the spring and summer as all of my children enjoy it.  And I will see what Ben says between now and September.  We may try again in the fall, 6 months can make a huge difference.  Or we may not and I will try again when Ben goes to school when he is 4 and I will take Wyatt when he is 2 and can enjoy it.

I cannot parent all of my children exactly the same.  They are all different.  I will parent them fairly based on their individual personalities.  And "fair does not mean the same."

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