Fairness is at the forefront of our daughters’ interactions with each other, both positive and negative. In their kindest moments, they share, they cede, they let their sister have her way. In their less kind moments, they invent ways to be in competition with each other and gain the upper hand.
The word we’re hearing most often in our tiny family these days is “fair,” specifically how most things are not. It’s not fair that I have to go to bed. It’s not fair that I have to put my laundry away. It’s not fair that I have to do homework and my sister doesn’t. It’s not fair that I can’t have ketchup on my rice.
We try to be consistent in our response. Equal does not mean fair. We explain that the expectations for seven-year-olds are different than the expectations for four-year-olds. We explain to the seven-year-old that she gets to do things that her sister doesn’t, like play outside by herself. We explain to the four-year-old that she will be able to go to bed later when she’s older.
“It’s not fair that I have to get a lecture.”
Despite our best explanations and being as consistent as we can, fairness is at the forefront of our daughters’ interactions with each other, both positive and negative. In their kindest moments, they share, they cede, they let their sister have her way. In their less kind moments, they invent ways to be in competition with each other and gain the upper hand.
In our cupboard there are eight-ounce mason jars. The girls drink their drinks out of these cups. If they need one, I reach into the cupboard and grab whichever is in front. To the girls, which mason jar I give them is a commentary on their worth.
You see, there are three different kinds of eight-ounce mason jars. If I want my daughters to think that I love them, I must hand them the “Diamond Cup” (officially known as the “quilted crystal”). The Diamond Cup is a symbol of triumph, of being better than those without a Diamond Cup. Upon receiving a Diamond Cup, one must immediately pronounce “I got a Diamond Cup!” and check to see what cup your sibling got.
Next in the hierarchy is the “Fruit Cup”. It’s an eight-ounce mason jar with a picture of fruit on it. If you don’t get a Diamond Cup, the Fruit Cup is at least respectable. If your sister declares “I got a Diamond Cup!”, and you have a Fruit Cup, you respond “Well I have a fruit cup!”. Everyone knows the Fruit Cup isn’t as good, but they’ll let you live in your delusion. The Diamond Cup needs the Fruit Cup like Coke needs Pepsi.
In the back of the cabinet are the unadorned, plain, clear, eight-ounce mason jars. They are not worthy of a name. They are just “cups”. Should you receive such a cup, disappointment abounds. But should you receive a mere cup when your sister gets a Diamond Cup? Clearly your parent doesn’t love you.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Sam, aren’t mason jars cheap? Why don’t you just buy all Diamond Cups and create a Communist Cup Utopia?” Well, let me tell you about plates. We have standardized on plates. The plates are exactly the same. When, I bring two plates to the table… “I want the one on top!”
This stuff is normal. I remember fighting with my brother over the best spot on the couch to watch TV. I remember that Santa made sure there were equal numbers of candy and nuts in our Christmas stockings because Santa knew that we were going to count. We grew up. We stopped counting (at least out loud).
The girls are going to fight and compete; they’re going to compare themselves to each other. But they’re also going to hug and play together and share and look out for each other. I want them to conspire against their parents. I want them to work together to outsmart us. In the common order of things, they will be in one another’s lives longer than I will, and I hope that they’ll have each other to turn to.
Photo by: Average Jane