My birthday falls a few days from Christmas. And I am a twin.
Growing up this was what I called the biggest rip-off ever.
Not only was my birthday never celebrated at school because we were already out on winter holidays, but I had to share my day with someone. And often I had to share gifts. And usually we got the exact same gift.
I’m sure a lot of the twin-ness of our gifts had to do with convenience. But I am also sure some if had to do with making sure things were fair.
I hear this a lot from parents and grandparents about gift giving. Need to make sure everyone gets an equal number of gifts. Need to make sure I spend the same amount on each grandchild. Need to make sure that my love is perceived as equal to all.
I am determined not to succumb to this as a parent.
Fair is not equal.
My mother loaned me money so I could pursue my Olympic dream. She took out a second mortgage to make this happen.
Did she take out a second mortgage to help any of my siblings pursue a masters degree? No. They went out and got student loans.
I have four sisters and one brother and we have all been treated fairly but none of us has been treated equally. Some of us needed financial support more than emotional support. Some of us needed a place to live in our twenties and some of us needed someone to cry to.
We all had and still have different levels of resilience in our emotional and financial lives. My mother, who is an amazing woman, responds to each of us individually with what we need from her rather than a carbon copy of support for each of us.
We were all different teenagers requiring different guidance and help. The youngest was at home when the rest of us had flown the nest. I remember being shocked to come home on a break from university and see her get the family car for the evening and $20 to go to the movies. When I was her age I paid for movies out of my babysitting money. I paid for the gas to go to see those movies out of my babysitting money. If I didn’t have it I didn’t go.
But fair is not equal. And my mother giving my sister things I never got does not mean she loves her more or cares for her more.
Stop keeping score.
Now that we’re overseas we don’t get quite the avalanche of gifts for Henry as we did when we lived close to family. Which I am thrilled with.
My mother and mother-in-law still spoil him rotten with boxes of gifts on his birthday and Christmas and the occasional surprise, but he probably gets fewer gifts than his cousins. And that’s just fine.
It doesn’t mean he is less loved or cared for. It does mean I don’t have to go through the toy inventory as often.
I know I still have a young child and I know I still have an only child but I really hope that I can create a family life where every special outing or Matchbox car isn’t written on a scoreboard. I really hope I can give my son what he needs and not always what he wants or thinks is equal to those around him.
Buying in both literally and figuratively to equality in gifts and possessions is a big part of clutter and owning more than you need.
How do you deal with making things fair and equal? If you have more than one child do you find it challenging to not have a tab running of who got what?