Fairness

My teenage son can't keep track of when his school projects are due, but he can tell me without pausing for a breath at what age he got his first phone compared to what ages his brothers were when they got theirs. If you catch him in a really fine moment, he'll also tell you at what age he was allowed to have social media apps and that we still make him give up his phone at night and oh, the unfairness of it all. He'll do it. No breathing required. He'll just run on oxygenated fury.

What I can't make him understand, any more than I could make myself understand is that parents change their parenting as they go. They do not mean to. They do not set out to. They do not chart a course or complete a plan of action - oldest child: make life living hell by implementing strict rules and setting goals no one human could attain, plan should be written and ready to execute the minute said child exits womb.

Middle child(ren): set goals slightly lower, (after all, no one wants a repeat of that much crying!) take one or two rules off the table and perhaps start to implement the amazing technique of bargaining.

Youngest child: Set one or two hard rules, goal is just to get them graduated and not living in your basement after high school, bargaining technique used so often both parent and child master poker faces and courtroom-like dialogue before said child is 16.


This is why you might know of a family whose oldest child is named Bradford (and only ever called Bradford!) and whose youngest child is named Turnip.

Somewhere along the line from Bradford to Turnip, mom and dad became a little less "he goes by Bradford only," and a little more, "his actual name is Turnip but Parsnip, Parsley or really any name will do."


As a child (the eldest child) I saw this injustice happen in my family. I could reel off to you without pausing for a breath the "totally unfair" ways that my parents changed the rules for my sisters. To be honest, I still can.


The difference is, I'm living the other side of the coin now. I had baby number one. I expected greatness from him from the time he started blinking. (Top percentile of the growth chart?! This child is destined for greatness!) I had another baby and let him watch Baby Einstein videos just to have 24 minutes of time in the kitchen. (Oldest - never! Middle - lifesaver.) Then I went and topped it all off and had baby number three. And I let my five-year-old give him an occasional bottle so I could vacuum the bedrooms without carrying another human being.


I don't know what to tell my oldest except - if you find a way to break the cycle, if you find a way to keep it all on an even playing field, if you can start something with the first and continue it with absolute accuracy to the last - then you're a better parent than I.


But unfortunately, dear Oldest Child, its likely your children will find something else to dislike you for. That's what they do. That's the real plotted course of action. The upside is - that's how you know you're doing this parenting job in the best way possible.

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