Today’s Georgia ice/snow day off school reminded me about this saying that siblings often recite over and over, “no fair.” Though it can be frustrating and annoying to hear, it is a true statement. Parenting should not be “fair” (aka, equal).
*Minion* was hit hard by a virus yesterday, slept most of the day after being checked out of school by Brian, and ate almost nothing.
Thank goodness, he tested negative to the nasty flu and negative to strep. He woke up today back to normal, not just because he woke up to snow. Northern friends and family, it is the strangest phenomena here in Georgia; snow in the Deep South may cause more excitement than Christmas morning to a born-Southerner. Every friend in the neighborhood is out to play and usually stays until the snow turns to mud.
*Minion* was somehow distracted until about 10 am, he ate well, literally did a happy dance, and no fever; so, I decided to bundle him up and would give him 20 minutes of joy in the 1 inch of snow. After 20ish minutes, I called him in, and heard, “no fair, *C$* doesn’t have to come in?” My response was, no. I did explain to him why, that his body needed rest from yesterday’s virus. Of course, I do not always have the time or energy to explain things to my kids (hence the ever popular, ‘because I said so’), but sometimes they need to understand especially when things are out of the norm, or when things have to change. ***no fair…
We have had numerous playdates with a couple of children in foster care. After one playdate, both of our boys “understood” this lesson of “no fair.” This older child had become very comfortable in our home. He doesn’t necessarily play well with others, but had made some progress with *C$* and *Minion* at the point of this particular visit. He chose hide-and-seek. He ended up getting “stuck” in the laundry shoot. He was adamant that he was coming out to the bottom floor and absolutely could not get out the way he went in. Looking back on it now, though terrified at the time, it was a game for him, a way for him to play with our little boys. He was getting everyone involved in our attempts at “saving” him. We all worked together add pillows, cushions, and blankets below to catch his fall. The boys laughed when it was over (I was still sweating a little). *Minion* said, “I wanna do that!” Of course, I said, “no,” and followed with, “it isn’t safe, and if you choose to do it, you can’t play hide-and-seek.” ***no fair…
Another *little man* came to our house for a playdate. Like every day, (best neighborhood ever) a friend knocked on the door and asked *C$* to go the long way to play kickball. He responded with, “no, I have *little man* over and he can’t go the long way.” Luckily, I heard this exchange, because there are things in our biological children’s life that should not change. I jumped in and said, “yes, you can go the long way, I will walk *little man* down the short way.” *Little man* responded with, “no fair, I want to go with *C$!* He was sad, but I was able to explain to him, you are not old enough, someday…I know, ***no fair…
I have found that the rules in our home change with the season of life we are experiencing as well. Here are a few examples:
- “no, you may not bathe together”…”no fair, we used to”
- “yes, you have to wear underwear to preschool”…”no fair, you didn’t make me before”
- “no, you may not come downstairs naked and get dressed in front of the T.V.”…”no fair, none of our friends are here”
- “yes, you have to wear a cup to baseball practice”…*Minion,* “no fair…my privates are too small to get hurt”
- “no, you may not build a zip-line in our backyard without help”…*C$,* “no fair…I want to do it now”
- “no, you may not wear shorts to school, it is freezing outside”…”no fair…I can run to the car”
- “yes, you have to use a napkin”…”no fair…my sleeve does the same thing”
- “no, you may not pee off the back deck”…”no fair…the neighbors are not outside”
Of course, we don’t usually have to remind them of those rules anymore because they are older and understand why. We decided to sit down with our boys, prior to this transition of a new family member, and asked them what they thought the most important rules of our home were. (This was a little strange because we never made rules formal prior to now.) Here is the list they came up with, with my interpretation to the right:
- cannot leave the house without telling Mom or Dad (safety)
- homework has to be done before you play (seasonal)
- when you feel angry, go to another room, and talk about your feelings when you feel calm (self-worth)
Brian and I were pretty pumped at this list since they generated it. And I was pumped since it included safety and self-worth! (Brian and I nixed their suggestion of “no dessert after dinner on school nights rule,” because that is just another seasonal rule for *Minion* since it affected his healthy choices…e.v.e.r.y. night.) It obviously hit hard with their current season of life, since they both agreed it was important. 🙂 We plan to share these top three rules with *little one* and allow him/her to add to the list.
According to two of the authors I mentioned in the post “research,” children of trauma become easily frustrated or even revert to their survival instincts of fight, flight, or freeze, with the word “no.” Remember, in the beginning, we are working on our number one goal- our relationship. We will be focusing on safety and self-worth. ***Totally fair and deserving for every child…
We have prepared our boys with adding a new sibling. “No, he/she will not have some of the same expectations as you.” Kid level example- You will still be expected to try every vegetable we put on your plate. New sibling- their expectation will not be equal. They will be given equal opportunity to eat that vegetable, but will not have to stand by that seasonal house rule of “try everything.” ***no fair…
So, if you don’t hear us say, “no.” Remember, it is not that we are just trying to avoid temper tantrums; we are treating the new sibling differently, we are bonding. That is something that is non-negotiable. He/she needs to feel safe and build confidence in the fact that we truly are their forever family.