Sharing this post on social media? Use this description to make it accessible: [Image description: Illustration from ‘The Better Tree Fort,’ by Jessica Scott Kerrin & Qin Leng. A kid looks on as his dad assembles a tree house.]
Squabbling isn’t about the cookie.
But the Earthquakes still fight over it like their entire future hinges on getting it.
That, and the ‘good’ blanket,
…and the softest sock,
…and so on.
Doesn’t matter if they’re hungry, tired, or cold. Doesn’t matter if they ate like twenty cookies 15 minutes ago and they’re already wearing three pairs of socks.
It’s about a sense of scarcity, competition, and security. I don’t give them things to silence them from squabbling. In fact, I usually feed the fire. I do not parent the Earthquakes equally. I parent them equitably.
Today, we talk about how we deal with envy.
It’s time again for our twice-yearly damage control for the Earthquakes. I like to get ahead of the entitled want-want-want atmosphere of the weeks leading up to gift holidays and birthdays.
While I know these arguments are a normal,, particularly with siblings so close in age, they happen multiple times a day and they are are SUPER ANNOYING.
To get through it, I remind myself that this ridiculous squabble and nitpicking is good for practicing negotiation. And math! Seriously – they break out a RULER when choosing cookies.
It’s also a good time to pull each kid aside and remind them that they will NEVER get exactly as much as others do. Someone will always have more than them, someone will always have less.
Buuut – that’s okay! What matters is that they have ENOUGH.
The size of their cookie is not symbolic of my love for them. Having to wear the scratchier sock doesn’t mean I’m going to leave them behind in a fire, write them out of my will, or be any less dedicated to their health and happiness.
Let’s be honest with our kids – we will never give them everything they want. But we will always give them what they need.
You know what’s weird?
We don’t envy most people. Most of us don’t envy astronauts, aristocrats, and powerful celebrities. Their lives are so dramatically different from ours that there’s just no comparing ourselves to them, so we just…don’t.
We envy people similar to us. We envy cousins who got the good hair, colleagues who make a living wage, and parents with kids who sit quietly in public.
So the outraged fury that we face when we read an extra story to one kid and not the other, is a sign that we’ve actually been practicing something very close to equal-share parenting. Which might not be a good thing.
Our kids should NOT feel entitled to equal treatment and perfectly balanced resources.
One of my kids needs way more attention and recovery time than the other. One kid needs more story time, the other kid needs more conversation. One kid needs to know his routines and what to expect from the day, and the other needs spontaneity. One kid needs new shoes, the other needs more art supplies.
One kid has some additional human needs (not ‘special needs’ – please stop calling them that) that the other brother doesn’t. It’d be silly to give them both chew toys when one uses oral stims for self-regulation, and the other doesn’t.
So, I parent equitably. I divide resources unevenly. And they’re actually pretty cool with it! So long as I keep these books in our frequent rotation.
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Books that help the Earthquakes deal with envy
I get ‘envy’ and ‘jealousy’ mixed up often – envy is coveting the status and resources of another. ‘Jealousy’ is fear of losing something they feel entitled to.
The Better Tree Fort – Somewhere, a kid is getting more presents than ours, having a better time, and not appreciating things we desperately want. This book helps us let go of joy-killing comparison and FOMO.
Books that help the Earthquakes deal with jealousy
We need a better word than ‘fair,’ which is far too nebulous and wiggly in definition. AND to nurture that innate drive to seek justice, balanced with equity. And also to wait out the stage when the whole world revolves around them and they only want ‘fair’ when it applies to them getting equal opportunity.
Odd Dog, Jaden Toussaint, The Greatest, Episode 3: The Muffin Wars, Too Small For Honeycake, not pictured: It’s Not Fair
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