Thursday, June 25, 2009

Unequal Treatment

"Who do you love most?" any one of the three kids will ask on a daily basis. Daily? Sure, if you count it as being asked whenever I'm asked to choose who gets to sit up front or who gets to use the vibrant purple Sharpie first. If you count when I hear Daughter scream at Youngest, "You're the worst brother in the world" because he's harassing her (yet again). If you count who begs to go to the store with me alone or take the dog out with me alone.

I stick by the parent guidebook at all times. "I love you all the same." "I couldn't go on if any of you were gone." "I don't love anyone more than you." [Yeah, that last one could be perceived as going over the line, but not when I love them all the same. Tricky, I is.]

"Equal love, but unequal treatment." That's my never-spoken motto. Every child is, of course, different. Poor Third (AKA Youngest) has to follow in the paths of Eldest and Daughter, two better behaved children you'd be hard pressed to find. They are both very polite and eager to please and compliant and pretty much perfect. Of course Youngest could never live up to that. [But, damn, did he have to opt to go for the complete freakin' opposite?]

I'm reminded of my never-spoken motto as I take Youngest to his three-hour basketball camp every morning this week. This is his first foray into activity camps. He was quite nervous Monday, but I assured him I'd hang for as long as he wanted. I said that knowing full well that I could be there the entire three hours. I'd brought plenty of amusements to keep me going for that period of time. I got away after one hour. On Tuesday, I only stayed 40 minutes. Wednesday, it was about 15 minutes. I suspect that will be my standard for today and Friday.

Daughter goes to an activity camp and I'm lucky if I can get away with walking her to the door. [As opposed to slowing to let her open the Jeep door and propel herself out.] She will make her own way, whether she knows anyone else in the camp class or not. She doesn't need me to assist in her acclimation or acceptance. She knows she'll be accepted in because she's Daughter.

Eldest went to one camp, a soccer camp, when he was about Youngest's age. He went with his best friend. I dropped them off at the field and hung for a few minutes. He was off dribbling with his friend. The coach was starting to round the kids up. Eldest saw that I was heading out, ran over to me and sobbed that he didn't want to stay. He couldn't stand the thought of being with all those kids. No matter that his best friend was with him. No matter that a bunch of other boys he knew were there. No matter.

It surprised me, his reaction, because he had always toughed out a situation, never wanting to let others see him as nervous or cautious. He had been nervous starting preschool, but he never let on to those outsiders. Ditto with kindergarten. Ditto with after school art class. I just expected the same.

He's never been to another camp. Not one. I just can't do it to him. I think my forcing him to do something that so clearly upsets him is a far worst thing than trying to get him to "get over it." He's a happier, more secure kid. [And we won't even mention the money I save by not having to pay for camps!]

I don't consider myself much of a Marxist, but, at least on a familial level, I will agree with Karl on this:

"From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need."


Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Watching my three, I know they'll each be different as they grow older because they're so different now! Bubba, sensitive yet willing to try anything new. Miss-Miss, knows no strangers but hates new places. J-man, bull in a friggin' china shop. It's going to be interesting!

Lori said...

Loved the quote at the end. My motto, taken from Maria Montessori, is "Follow the Child". J (my eldest) sat and watched for the first day of any camp or activity he went to. Then, once he felt comfortable, he joined right in. K (youngest) makes friends no matter where we are. Airplane, beach, park...he thrives in groups. So, being a parent, to me, means following them, not pulling them by the hair trying to make them into something they're not. So far so good. Let's hope that mine continue in positive directions; makes it easier to let them lead.

D... said...

I so agree with you.

I thought my daughter would be the one to enjoy leaving home; to go to overnight camps, etc. As you know, she went to DC when she was in 5th grade. She was horribly homesick. I have never done that to her again. Oh, I ask if she wants to go to the camp her BFF is going to, but, she says no every time. And I accept that.

My son, who I thought I would have to physically make him leave, had no problem on his DC trip. He left us just fine. Wow, that broke my heart. Not that I wanted him to be upset, but it spoke to me of the future.

That quote does say it all, in the familial sense.

gudnuff said...

I love this post. And I love reading about sibling behavior/treatment/fairness, etc. My daugher is an only child. I was the youngest of three, three who fought a lot. Which kind of helped me see the bright side of my daughter not having siblings (no fights). I struggle with what Lori seems to have mastered not doing: "trying to make [her] into something [she's] not", because there are no others to turn to for comparison.


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