Walking the fine line of “fair” doesn’t mean “the same”.

We had delicious steaks for dinner last night. Thick, juicy, delicious grilled steaks of awesomeness. Garlic-butter cauliflower and onion sauteed potatoes for sides… Mmmmm. I could hardly stand it, it was so good.

Bee-girl had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I suppose it shouldn’t seem so odd to me: my mini-me is a full-fledged carnivore, the rarer the meat, the better; and my delicate spazz-flower, who takes after her Auntie Kim, is a sort-of vegetarian. Bee-girl has been “off” baked and grilled chicken for awhile (she makes an exception for fried), even though it used to be the one meat she would eat. She’s never been a fan of pork. Ham she’ll do. Steak? Not any more. Although she will eat a nice juicy roast beast. Seafood is very hit or miss. (Calamari, tuna fish, lobster, crab – hit. Salmon, tilapia, most fishies, clam strips, scallops – miss.) Hamburgers and hotdogs are meh. Meatloaf is her favorite.

It used to bother me more than it did. And by “bother”, what I mean is that I refused to cook two meals or let my very willful toddler/small child dictate what she would or would not try. Kids tastes swing wildly as their little bodies do so much growing and changing. I’d make Bee eat at least three or four pieces of whatever we were eating. It wasn’t enough to kill her – although she’d disagree – and she was honest enough to admit when she liked something. It worked.

But now my baby girl is nine. [GAHHHH.] Nine-years-old knows a lot better what it actually likes and does not like. At least my nine-year-olds do. And what’s the point of trying to raise independent children who will be fantastic grown-ups if I teach them that I don’t trust what they tell me. So I’ve gradually come around to the place that if Bee tells me consistently that she doesn’t like steak, then I don’t make her eat it. She can have a bowl of cereal or a sandwich that she makes herself. (Mama doesn’t cook two meals.) It has to be somewhat healthy, and she has to have a vegetable.

Here’s the rub, though: the Xman is Bee-girl’s shadow. If Bee doesn’t like steak, then the Xman is going to say he doesn’t like steak. It doesn’t matter that he lurves it like we carnivores do; he wants to emulate Bee. The problem is that the Xman is four. Four is way too young to know what it likes – especially when it’s too busy copying someone else. So the Xman has to eat a few bites of everything else, just like the girls did. And I can see the pattern of consistency there – the girls had to do it when they were four – but the problem is that not everyone was around then. They don’t know that. The danger is that it comes across as favoritism.

That’s where “‘fair’ doesn’t mean ‘the same'” comes in.

What’s fair for the girls doesn’t have to mean what’s fair for the Xman. We tell him that when he’s a big boy, he’ll be able to make choices for himself too. We tell him not to worry about anyone else but himself. We still make the girls eat vegetables and milk and other foods they might not have chosen and hope everyone sees that no, there isn’t favoritism. Everyone is getting the parenting direction they need for their age.

This sort-of vegetarianism and particular food quirks might be making things a bit sticky for household equilibrium, but it’s Bee’s choice. We’ll make the rest of it work.


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2 Responses to “Walking the fine line of “fair” doesn’t mean “the same”.”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Yeah for good parenting!! I love it when people realize that “fair” doesn’t mean “the same”. My kids (the younger especially) still struggles with that. But, sometimes he gets what his sister didn’t at the age he is; they are different kids with different needs. The rules for 4 are different than the rules for 9 & 11 (did I get that right?). He will survive and so will you and Jeff. Plus, he will be better for it.

  2. Kim Says:

    Yes – I like the “he will be better for it” angle. Important to remember as you parent through stressful situations!

    Also, the girls didn’t get tablets when they were four unless they were traveling. When did Molly get her first electronics toy?? 4 isn’t always the same as other 4s…

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