From toddlerhood through adulthood, most of us have the sense that fairness and equality require sameness. The same number of toys, the same size pieces, and the same schools, of course. Separate but equal is unjust, remember?
But in parenthood, equality doesn’t mean giving each child the same. It means giving each child what they need. I know this, because it’s just as true in the classroom.
Yet I continue to turn myself inside out to try to give Theo the same as what I gave Sebastian. I signed him up for the fabulous toddler class that SP and I did two years ago. I was so excited that he would get to do it, too, while his brother was at preschool. I could barely hide my disappointment that two of the three teachers were different, because it just wouldn’t be the same. But it had been such a great experience for Sebastian that I was sure it would be great for Theo, too.
I brushed aside my own growing concerns that the class was in fact getting in the way of my spending the alone time with Theo that I’d been excited about. The parent education part of the class took me away from him. We spent at least 45 minutes driving there and back. We got home late for lunch, which meant a late nap and having to wake him up for preschool pickup.
But over and over again I’ve worried about making decisions that would make Theo feel like he was getting unequal treatment or less than his brother just because he was born second and not first.
As I took a long, hot shower (a rare treat), I thought about it. Yes, Theo enjoys the class, but he doesn’t need it. He doesn’t need to practice socializing with other kids because the child is naturally a social butterfly. And he goes to school two full days a week already, which gives him plenty of practice separating from parents as well as a ton of interesting, stimulating activities to do.
I am not the isolated, mildly depressed, teacher-suddenly-turned-stay-at-home-mom that I was two years ago who was desperate to get out of the house and see other adults once in a while. I’ve made friends with other moms already, and now I get to go to work once a week and talk to adults about things other than my children for a change. I’ve spent the last three years reading parenting books and doing these classes, so the parent ed portion feels redundant and even a bit boring right now.
So I decided that we’re dropping out. Theo and I can find some other way to spend our Thursdays that doesn’t leave us both exhausted and a bit cranky.
I know it’s impossible to treat my boys the same. I can’t give Theo five full days alone with me any more than I can give Sebastian a big brother to worship, even though those are both wonderful gifts. My children are different and their needs are different.
Also I’m different, and our family is different. So it’s ok that the boys are having different experiences. It doesn’t mean it’s automatically unequal.
…and we can find toy boats to play with somewhere else. Right?