Sunday, May 31, 2009

That's NOT FAIR!

I have a certain middle child that has been coming to me (with increasing frequency) with this arms crossed, bottom lip protruding and eyes angry saying, "How come I didn't get a ____" or "Why did (brother) get one and I didn't?!" Its enough to drive this mother up the wall. Said child is obsessed with fairness as of late. Before evaluating whether or not the amount of pretzels in front of him is satisfactory for his hunger level, his eyes are on his brothers' pretzel piles and no matter how many are in front of him, AUTOMATICALLY his pile is less than his brothers'. And then the protruding lip, angry eyes and crossed arms are back. With gritted teeth, I might say something like "finish what you have in front of you and if you are still hungry, there are plenty more." I'd be lying if I said I have never lost it in this scenario. It is all I can do to allow him to keep even ONE pretzel. Every ounce of me wants to show him who's boss. "You think you have less? Alright, I'LL SHOW YOU LESS," swiftly grabbing up and dumping the food for which he was so ungrateful.

I have a thing about fairness issues: I am of the opinion that if someone is claiming that something is not fair, no matter how you try to prove how it actually is fair, that person will not be convinced. You may have 100 reasons for each person got what they got; you can count every raisin in front of each sibling; you can set a timer so each turn is even, but if a child (or adult!) is of the mind that things are not fair, you will not win. There is always a reason why it is STILL not fair. So I have a policy of NOT being fair. Okay, okay, I did make sure each kid (who is old enough to care) had the same number of presents under the tree. And I am guilty of keeping Spiderman paraphernalia equally distributed among the sizes. And I do try to generally make things fair whenever possible. But what I don't do is get into arguments or discussions of fairness. If a child is claiming unfairness, I usually try and focus that child on what they can be thankful for.

HOWEVER, this method is not clicking and the current unfairness bombardment is more than this mamma can take. That is, until today when I had a wonderful ah-ha moment: Oh my. He doesn't trust me. He doesn't trust me. Here's what lead to that epiphany:
He came stomping up the stairs having seen his brother eating a banana: "How come DAVIS gets a banana and NOT ME?!?!?" he said, complete with his standard lip-eyes-arms stance.
(Deep breath, momma. Don't blow...) "Sweetie, when you say things like that," (I imitate him to-a-tee, at this point) you are only causing yourself trouble. When you say things like that (I imitate his words and stance again) does mommy ever give you what you want?"
Angrier eyes coming my way. More deep breathing by Mommy. Lord, help me keep the tone kind and gentle.
"The reason Davis got a banana is because he asked for one. Maybe if YOU asked for one in a kind manner, I might give one to you also. What do you think?"
Shoulder shrug. "Can I please have a banana?"
My face lit up and I handed him a banana. "Little guy, I love to give you the things you want and need. All you need to do is ask, OK?"

When he walked away, I could tell that something new had clicked for him. For that I am thankful. Even more, I am thankful that something clicked for me. He is assuming (right or wrong) that I am going to slight him every chance I get. Here is my opportunity to really build up trust between the two of us. Rather than be frustrated by his angry assumptions, I can and will be patient with him, rehearsing with him all the ways I love to care for his needs (and how he must make proper requests). When he trusts me to care for him like I care for his brothers, I suspect that he will stop focusing on fairness, resting in the knowledge that no matter what others get, meeting his unique needs is paramount to his mommy.


Brenda said...

Jenne, this was great for me to read right now! Ok, so do you have advice for a Momma with a 7 year old who keeps asking why he's not getting what the 22 month old is getting? I usually put Ruby in the high chair while I'm making a meal (as I did with all of the kids when they were littler!) and I give her a little something to munch on. Isaac keeps asking things like "why does Ruby get cheese right now and I don't?" I keep saying "she's littler than you and has a littler tummy, so she needs to eat more often." Then tonight, Noah asked Karry "daddy, why do you get a big piece of corn and we just get a little piece of corn?" and Kaleb answered "because daddy has a bigger tummy and he needs bigger corn." :) :)
I don't want Isaac to feel slighted about Ruby always getting food before him. But I don't want to cater to the complaining...Any thoughts? :) (oh, this also includes questions like: "why does Ruby get a toy during church?" etc. Ahhhh! At some point she'll be on an equal level with her brothers (and then baby #5? and the whole issue again? :)....But for now I have to figure this out! :)

Ginger@chirgies said...

Jenne, that is soooo good. Yes, we've been battling the same thing around here, and now the little 26 month old can be heard saying, "awwwwww! No faywer!" in a little pouty voice, parroting the older siblings. It was cute the first time and from then on it just doesn't fly w/ this Momma either. argh.

Your words to that certain little man remind me of Luke 11, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Just ask. Trust Me. I DO love you. Brilliant! Thanks Jenne for sharing your pearls! I'll pray that you and I both will continue to breathe deeply when we want to just dump the plate in the trash.

Pate Family said...

Good job of discerning that there is a trust issue for him, I there are kids (that turn into adults) that go around with a chip on their shoulder thinking that the whole world is out to get them. You're intervention is going to shape him into a grateful person who is thankful for what he is blessed with. But what is the deal with little boys and their obsession with food quantities? We have a major "eyes are bigger than your stomach" kid. Eat what is on your darn plate before deciding that it is not enough!