Fair vs. Equal

I came across this post on The Minimalist Mom's blog, and being opinionated - wanted to rant a bit about it!

The premise of this post is that 'Fair is not always equal', which I agree with COMPLETELY! She does, however, go on to use a few examples that I would argue are still not 'fair', but maybe that's just me...

I would love to raise kids who aren't 'counters', but considering the people I have known in my life, the statistics seem to be against me on this one - kids tend to pay attention to things their siblings get that they don't, and it bugs them.

When I was in my early teens, my parents approached me with some information - they had been setting money aside for me since I was about 7 years old, for my college fund.  Also, I needed braces and they had no insurance coverage for this and were unable to pay for it themselves.  They were telling me about this set aside money so that I could decide whether or not I wanted to spend it on braces - my other option was to leave my mouth alone, which, for a teenage girl with 'fangs' was not really a viable option.   Once the cat was out of the bag - both my brother and I were aware of this set-aside money - it seemed as though we were suddenly able to use this money how we wished.  I remember my brother purchasing a number of very fancy toys with his amount because his genetically perfect mouth required almost nothing.  Was this fair?

  • On the one hand, we both received an identical amount of money to do with what we wanted to.  The amounts were identical because my parents had started saving at the same time (which my brother got a few extra years after I did, but anyway...), and I didn't have to spend mine on braces.  I chose to. 
  • On the other hand, I 'required' a medical procedure that my brother didn't - not life-threatening, but still - and he was able to spend his money on toys instead of saving it for something 'responsible'. 

I personally don't think this was fair, but as a parent I struggle with figuring out how to handle situations like these.  Even when it comes to saving for a child's education, I struggle with the 'fairness' of different scenarios.

What if my daughters choose entirely different forms of education? What if one daughter becomes a dentist and needs $80,000 to cover her university education? What if the other daughter then enters a community college and needs only $6,000 to cover her education? Is 'fair' giving them both an equal amount even when it means one still has tens of thousands to cover, while the other has money to spare? I don't think so, but I don't really know how to reconcile this either.

At this moment, I have a few thoughts about how I will make things 'fair' - please feel free to give your opinions...

1. If any of my children require medical procedures that I can cover the cost of, the cost will work on a per-child basis and will (hopefully) have no effect on any other children. As in, Child B won't get the $5000 to spend as they wish because it was given to Child A for reasons they could not control.

2. Large gifts that are given for a particular event or accomplishment - such as a graduation gift, wedding gift, etc. are given for those accomplishments.  If I can afford to spend $X to help cover the cost of a child's wedding, only those of my kids who get married will get $X amount.  However, $X will remain constant whether my child wants a $500 wedding or a $50,000 wedding...  Same goes for graduation gifts - only those children who graduate will get said gifts.

3. I will NOT count dollars when it comes to random gifts - like birthdays and Christmas, etc. however, I will stay within a reasonable and similar range for these things that will probably have more to do with our income at the time than the age or interests of the child.  For example, Child A will not get a giant flat screen tv while Child B gets a new sweater - no obvious and glaring inequalities.

4. I will try exceedingly hard to spend a similar amount of time and energy on each child when it comes to pursuing their dreams.  I have seen families with one 'prodigy child' who is pampered above all others because they are very focused on and dedicated to their skill while other children are left behind.  Even if I have a sports prodigy, I will try to make sure that the time spent pursuing this child's dream does not happen at the detriment of another child's dream.

5. Although my methods of discipline will be standard as much as they are my own - I may discipline a child more or less who requires more or less discipline - or in different ways, depending on how each child responds - to become a well mannered and constructive person, since I believe that is the whole point anyway.

There are so many things that I have no idea how I will handle when and if they come, but I want to have some underlying 'themes' I suppose in regards to how we choose to help and support our children - all, of course, with the goal of creating self-sufficient and confident people who eventually don't need our help at all.

What are your thoughts on this? How often is what is 'fair' actually 'equal'?

 

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