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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Treat Kids Uniquely Not Necessarily Equally

Sparking a second post on the topic, my reading of the book titled Siblings Without Rivalry has also introduced to me another new concept. Kids don't need to be treated equally, they need to be treated uniquely, as they are made, not in a cookie cutter fashion. Those of us who have read on the 5 Love Languages of Kids might have already picked this one up but I have to say here, again, is another point where old habits die hard.

You see, my grandmother used to count out the same amount of M&M's for her children and even ensured they all had the same colors in the same amounts, i.e. 2 red, 3 blue...... just to be fair. My mom carried on tradition (but really my WHOLE family is guilty of this one on BOTH sides.) Every Christmas my sister and I would receive identical gifts in different colors. Stuffed teddy bears; one in black, the other brown. A new dress and matching purse; one in pink, the other in purple. On and on it went, year after year. I remember resenting that I could fore tell what my gift would be on Christmas day as soon as my sister opened hers.

Again here I am guilty of committing the same offense now that I am mom. I go to the store and If one child needs new shoes the whole crew gets them whether they are needed or not.

"Mom sister has more skirts than I have," flies the complaint.

"Well, next time we go shopping for clothes I'll get you a skirt too," I add for fairness sake.

"Mahhhhh-mmmmm she has more cereal than I have."

"Mommmmeeee they both have a pink plate for their hot dog and I want a pink plate too."

on and on and on and on........ it goes!

I have never thought about the fact that I could be doing my children a huge disservice let alone creating tally monsters who are sucking my wallet and energy dry in the name of fairness. Well sisters I have learned that equal is not necessarily fair and it's gonna be my battle cry from now on!

Once again I need to take a cue from my Heavenly Father and how He deals with His children. I am explicitly told not to covet anything my neighbor has for good reason. It's because my Sovereign Lord knows my needs and meets them accordingly. That same Lord of mine is Lord to my neighbor too, and consequently is committed to their need as well.

If all it takes is a quick glance around to see that God meets people's needs in different and unique ways why do I insist on trying to turn life into an assembly line of equality for my children? Equality for equality's sake is no good, especially when it's petty, as in the case of my children's bickering. Now don't get me wrong, there is a place for some equality, like the same punishment for breaking a house rule applied to all household members, etc. But the book makes a larger point that really hit home for me.

By teaching our kids that we are able to meet their needs uniquely we show them that we indeed love them uniquely we reveal a commitment to meeting their real needs. In fact, and I think all of us who have been on the receiving end of this statement would agree, the phrase "I love all my kids the same" somehow doesn't cut it. That's because we all want to be loved and desired for who we are not just because we happened to show up one day as a member of the "______" family.

The key to expressing meaningful love and meeting unique needs is simply to deal with each child on an individual basis according to their need. This shouldn't feel ground breaking to me but I must admit that it releases me from a lot of guilt that I can sometimes fall into. After having 3 kids it's easier to count the cost each successive child has paid in "alone" time. I have made myself crazy at times trying to ensure each kid had equal amounts of time. Even though God made each of my kids differently and some have a larger time requirement than others. Some need snuggles and some could care less. Now I am free to realize that when I meet their need in a way which is specific to them I truly am fulfilling them and not just pacifying them.

Once again joy is restored in the simple things of life. Instead of seeing my best efforts towards equality never raise the level of fuel in my child's "love tank" I am free ditch the formulaic expressions and head toward the deeper more fulfilling gifts. Teaching my kids to understand that I am just a human and only have so much to give in a day and that while I'd love to be available at their every whim I just can't. What's more God our Father is ABLE to be at our beck and call, but He isn't. Doesn't that teach me something!?

My kids will learn what is most important and what isn't. When they don't get every little thing in the same way they will also have the opportunity to head straight to the real source of their soul's contentment, the Lord. I can teach them to use authenticity as a measuring stick, not necessarily equality. They will learn that while I may not be at their beck and call they can rest assured that when they really need me and it's time to test the saltiness of my love I WILL BE THERE. Not only will I be there, but I will be ready to meet the real NEED. I have a feeling that will go a much longer distance in filling their "love tanks" than an equal amount of M&M's, skirts, or whatever else they may misinterpreting as a symbol for my love at the moment.