One of the biggest struggles in our family/blended family is fairness. Basically, there’s a whole lot of trying to be one up. Which is not even about being even. It’s about being one up. My husband and I find it simultaneously hilarious and distressing. You know, like most things parenting.
Here’s an example. Breakfast.
My husband (glory be) makes my breakfast every morning. He has adapted to my varying tastes and peculiarities. Well, I don’t think I’m peculiar, but I am very specific. Cups of tea need to be strong, hot and full. With soy milk. Toast needs to be gluten free (I just like this bread better, I don’t need to not eat gluten), well cooked (but crispy) with lots butter, little vegemite and lots of avocado. Before either of these things I like warm lemon water. Currently I’m not having tea or toast in the morning, so he’s making poached eggs and I cook extra vegetable. I like my poached eggs firm. Breakfast it should be noted is my favourite meal of the day. It doesn’t need to be said the he already has a full plate meeting my needs. So then add 4 daughters to that (and one son, who is mostly just trying to do the same thing every morning with as little fuss as possible and isn’t into life being fair. Thank goodness).
Because of the need for feeding lots of people he poaches numerous eggs and even started adding bacon and tomatoes (yes, this is a regular school day morning of which we have 5 every week and 5 kids to get to school. I’m all for kids having cereal, but then my breakfast gets cooked for me, so I suspect it’s very “one-up” for me to complain that the kids should just eat cereal). Next, he serves me and him (2 eggs each sometimes bacon). The rest the kids serve up when they eventually stop fecking about in their rooms making their rooms meesy and not getting dressed until the last minute. One child notices I have 2 eggs, and she only has one so requests another egg. Even though she has 2 bacon and I have 1. More eggs start. The next child who likes to writhe a lot and say she doesn’t know what she wants to eat, finally says she wants bacon and gets 2 bacon, no eggs, but comes out and notices that previous child now has 2 eggs and 2 bacon and cries about always having wanted an egg. I hand over one of my eggs as the egg cooking has just gone on for too long. Generally, cruisey youngest child eats cereal (as does the one son) but later requests a boiled egg so she can just eat the white off and say she’s full. Oldest child in the house comes up latest of all but completely ready so it’s forgivable and has to have 2 bacon but REALLY CRISPY. When other girls see how crispy her bacon actually is, they comment that they too like crispy bacon. I wash the poached egg pan and bacon pan and try not to accidentally slam anyone’s head in between them. Husband nicely asks if I’m OK, and I say ‘thank you for the poached eggs, they were perfect’.
I know we’ll probably get some advice on not to cook their breakfast for them, or morning routines (which we have nailed by the way) or ignoring them but that’s not really why I’m writing this. Firstly, I’d like some validation for low level exhaustion about breakfast and two, why the fuck does being fair matter anyway??
I recall as a kid banging on about things not being fair. Our Mum created a household job list which she wrote up each morning (maybe for the weekends or school holidays because we left on the school bus by 7.15am during the week so I think we didn’t do jobs before school) and we had to allocate our name to the job we wanted to do. First in best dressed. The easiest job was cleaning the basin and for the most part possibly the best job for the youngest was cleaning the fireplace (sweeping out ash and coal and resetting the fire) was possibly beyond her. I went to great lengths to get the basin job. I think it’s why I was an early riser. Just to nail the easy job, and then smirk at the struggles. When my sister got the basin repeatedly (I think sometimes Mum allocated as this was easier than punching me in the face for being such an irritating kid, and she wasn’t the type to do that) I do recall making a fuss about it not being fair. But really? It was fair. She was younger and less able to do the other jobs. So maybe I’m just reliving my childhood from the place my Mum wished I could.
One day Fleur, you will understand.
I don’t. I still don’t understand.
I don’t even have an epiphany about this. Although I did work with someone this week who talked a lot about the unfairness of his childhood, and the consequences of that in his life now means he often struggles with that. And I know that’s the place we always start. Me and whomever I’m working with. Back there first, so we can unravel why they’re not do what they know they should be doing to be happy. Help the illogical line up with the logical. I know there’ll be healing in this for me too when I stop struggling against it and hating the struggle.
I know I’m supposed to work with some of you. Especially if you often feel like where you are or how you got there is unfair. Or that the struggle is real, no matter how capable and together you are. That you can be simultaneously brilliant and messy. Brilliant, messy ones are my favourite.