On Friday afternoon as I was feeding my two old sweeties I broke one of the cardinal rules of parenting.It’s a parenting rule for families with more than one child.
I’ve been ignoring this gem of knowledge, this directive, for some time.I just didn’t realize it.
In my defense, I did only raise one child. I never had to learn about navigating the family terrain that comes with multiple kids.
But that would be somewhat of a cop-out since I’ve worked with children and families my entire professional career.
So what was the rule?
This egregious oversight that I committed?
I know that in families, parents often twist themselves into pretzels to be fair. The phrase “bend over backwards” comes to mind.
If one child gets to do something, his or her sibling gets to do something of equal import.
If John gets a toy, Susie gets one.
If Shannon gets invited to a birthday party, Billy gets to do something special as well.
You get where I’m going.
You may even have direct experience with the doctrine of fair parenting.
If so, please, please leave a comment below. I want to hear how it’s gone for you.
In the pasture it was Bud who pointed out my lack of fairness.
Here’s how it went down.
For some reason, which is now fuzzy to me, we started feeding Pepper by placing her feed pan in the back of the car, inside the open tailgate. I think it was so that she wouldn’t have to bend down so far to eat her grain.
On the other hand, Bud has never had a bit of trouble eating, in any way, shape or form. We place his feed pan on the ground.
On Friday, he let me know he wasn’t happy with this arrangement.
He’d been giving me clues all week. I simply wasn’t paying attention.
Just minutes after Bud and Pepper started eating, he raised is head, pushed Pepper away from her feed and began eating her grain.
I moved him back to his pan.
Minutes later, he did it again.
So, I picked up his feed pan and placed it in the bed of the car, alongside Pepper’s.
This calmed him and he started eating his own food.
Is this what he wanted all along?
To be fed the same way as Pepper?
She came back to her pan and I breathed a sigh of relief.
On Saturday I was feeling quite smug because I thought I’d worked this out. I set both pans in the back of the car, and opened the gate for the sweeties.
Bud immediately went to Pepper’s feed and started munching her grain.
Pepper walked around the car and straight for the bucket of alfalfa cubes.
#@*! (Fill in your expletive of choice.)
I put the cubes out of sight, redirected Bud to his feed pan and walked Pepper to hers.
It’s important that they eat their own food, because each pan is dosed with different medicine. I’m not just being controlling, in case you were wondering.
What did Bud do next?
He nudged Pepper away and started eating her grain.
#@*! (Once more with feeling!)
I muscled him toward his pan, which I’d now placed back on the ground a few feet away from the car.
So much for the doctrine of fairness.
Sometimes things must be as they are for good reason. Fair isn’t always the same as equal.
I’m betting this holds true for families too.