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Look carefully...at the seemingly small moments...in the constant shaping of souls.- Neal A.Maxwell

The watch and the teddy bear

14 year old had 4 impacted wisdom teeth pulled today.  He has been looking forward to the surgery and his two days off school.  This evening I asked if the day was what he expected.  He looked at me with puffy, bruised cheeks and said, "Not really - it hurts."  That statement is really about the only complaining he has done.  Therefore, when 10 year old brother saw 14 year old eating pudding and ice-cream and milkshakes 10 year old said, "That's not fair!"  I told 10 year old that when he has his wisdom teeth pulled he can have unlimited pudding and ice-cream too.  10 year old's next concern, "What if I don't need my wisdom teeth pulled?"

When I was in college I would have lengthy discussions with my Educational Philosophy professor.  One day I was telling him about an economically "unfair" situation between my siblings and I - my parents were paying for something for two of my brothers that I was paying for for myself.  He asked me, "If you ever have kids and one wants a $15 teddy-bear for Christmas and the other wants a $100 watch what would you do?"  I told him that I would buy the watch for the one and the teddy bear plus $85 worth of other items for the other."  My professor said, "But all that child wanted was a teddy bear!"  I said, "It wouldn't be fair to spend $100 on one and only $15 on the other."  My professor restated, "One child wanted a watch and got a watch - the other wanted a teddy bear and got a teddy bear, how is that not fair?"  I did not understand how this conversation applied to the situation with me and my siblings.  He asked, "Do you want your parents to pay your way?"  No, I liked the independence of paying my own way.  I just didn't want my parents paying for my brothers.  My professor helped me realize that my parents were helping each child in the way that best suited each child.  That single conversation has had a long lasting effect on my view of what fair means and my understanding that fair is not always equal.  Someday I'll ask my now 10 year old, "If you have kids and one wants a $15 teddy bear...." And, someday my now 10 year old will learn that there is a painful price for unlimited ice-cream, pudding and milkshakes.

Respectfully disagree
Friday, February 17, 2012 10:26 PM by vesper
I was the sibling that paid her way.
My brothers on the other hand had a much easier time. I resented it and justifiably so. I don't believe a parent helps a child when they have a certain set of standards for one over another.
As a parent, I treated all equal. If one wanted a big item ticket for Christmas and the other didn't. The one whose list cost less was compensated and had more packages to unwrap on Christmas morning. It taught the one with "champagne taste" a life lesson before he hit adulthood. It taught him to think twice about how badly did he want that big item ticket. Was he going to be that "in love" with it once he got it? Or would having more things that cost less be a better choice. Did it really have to be a brand name or could he choose an off brand that was cheaper and allow him the opportunity to add something else to the wish list. And how ironic for me that brother who seemed to need special assistance from Mom and Dad ended up having a hard time of it in the real world when it wasn't so willing to hand them what he thought he deserved.
On the deeper level
Friday, February 17, 2012 11:49 PM by cenb
Vesper -
I appreciate your perspective. We actually agree, at least for the most part:) . With school clothes, athletic gear, etc. my boys have a set amount of money they can spend. They decide if they want few items at brand label or more items at non-brand. Extras like toys, entertainment, candy comes out of their pocket. Very early they learn the value of a dollar. At Christmas, however, I go for "wow factor" not monetary value. Two years ago the youngest received a huge stuffed lion that cost $20, the middle a lego set for $40, the oldest a camera for $100+. They were all very happy with their gifts - the youngest most of all. If I had spent $80+ more on youngest it, in my opinion, would simply encourage the acquisition of "stuff".
acquisition of "stuff"
Saturday, February 18, 2012 9:33 PM by vesper
Cenb, you make a valid point. However, is there not a "wow" factor in a pile of wrapped packages addressed to the child whose request was a $20 item? And at some point the ten year old is going to figure out that his brother who received the $100 some dollar camera in all fairness should have gotten 6 large stuffed animals. But most likely the one that got the $40 Lego set will figure out first that he should have asked for three or at least the super mega size. :) I could never do things in that fashion. Everything had to be Even Steven regardless of age. The older the child, often the more expensive the gift. But the lesson is they understand it may be the one and only thing they receive. I do enjoy reading your blog entries. It is very obvious how serious you have taken the role of motherhood and no doubt be successful rearing three sons that will function well in society. We could use a few more like you. As a concerned citizen over the future of our country, I thank you.
Saturday, February 18, 2012 10:22 PM by cenb
Vesper -
Your "wow factor" of 6 large stuffed animals made me laugh out loud. It would have definitiely wowed the socks off youngest. My husband was barely convinced to allow one five-foot animal in the door, six would have been non-negotiable, plus the fact that Santa generally brings just one gift per child at our house. I view big ticket items, the camera a few years ago - a GPS this year, as a "rite-of-passage" so age does factor in for me. When the kids were younger I used to sing a paraphrased Rolling Stones, "You don't always get what you want...sometimes you just get what you need."

I have long enjoyed reading you writings and appreciate your views - I give my thanks to you.
Still pondering :)
Sunday, February 19, 2012 12:44 AM by cenb
Santa generally brings one gift to each child in addition to some gifts to be shared as a family. When my youngest was 3 or 4 he wanted to know why the neighbor received numerous gifts from Santa. I replied, "He doesn't have any brothers or sisters." Youngest thought for a minute and said, "I choose brothers!"

Life/religion/politics often merge as one in my mind. Gratitude negates covetousness. Gratitude negates entitlement. There are many, many ways to teach gratitude. I could give my kids thousands of gifts at Christmas and still raise them to be grateful. Likewise they could receive few and still turn out ungrateful. My thought process in writing my original post: Don't look at the ice-cream and pudding you're not getting - look at the good health you're currently enjoying. Don't covet your brother's current diet - be compassionate to your brother's current pain/discomfort. My professor was telling me: don't look at the tuition your parents are giving your brothers - look at the independence they are allowing to foster in you. He was telling me my needs were different than the needs of my brothers'. True then, true now.
Sibling rivalry
Sunday, February 19, 2012 8:29 PM by Beaudro
NOW that both my parents(& grandparents too) are dead ,I can say this:
I'm the oldest & my brother (He's 6 years younger)Always wanted what I had.
He never understood that I had already earned things before he was lookin'.
When my father died I arranged for him to be Executor,NOW he knows how things were & he is much better.MY point is We should have let him know as it happens & save a lot of years wasted worryin' about nothing.
Good thinking
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 1:48 AM by cenb
It was good thinking for you to have your brother as executor. I agree knowledge upfront is good.
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