As I watch and hear my darling daughters squabble over who got a better piece or a prettier color, who got a longer turn or who feels that they “never get what they want” I recall from my own childhood, so vividly remembering the pain of feeling that life is so unfair. Never mind that as I got older, much older, I realized that fair didn’t mean the same thing at the same time. That’s an impossible notion to teach an almost two year-old as she enviously crouches down to watch through the crack of the door as her sister gets to dance in class. Every Wednesday, my heart breaks into 135 pieces as I watch my tiny dancer ask to dress up like her sister and enter the studio.

…she enviously crouches down to watch through the crack of the door as her sister gets to dance in class

Overflowing with guilt, I provide my younger darling with new coloring books and special snacks all the while assuring her (and myself) that she too will get to attend dance class in one short year. Will she remember? Probably not, but based on how bad it feels, I really don’t know. What I do know is that these feelings they have of rivalry, better and worse, and deprivation will continue despite our best efforts as parents in assuring them that no one is being given preferential treatment. It seems to be the way in every family, where someone insists that they were less favored or cared for. One thing is for sure, despite my knowledge of these issues, it seems my motherly guilt is growing right alongside my darlings.

When you’re little it seems to matter what plate or what color utensil someone else got that you didn’t. Why they got a toy that you didn’t and so on. Sadly some of us grow up into adults that feel that someone always had it better. Always looking across the way and wondering “why them and not me”. Interesting how we seem to feel intrinsically deprived or left out, feeling always that what we have is insufficient. As a parent I am trying desperately to teach and show my girls that everyone gets the same. That giving up what you have for what you think is better may sometimes leave you with more of a loss. I’m hoping to instill an overall feeling of satisfaction as living “that unfulfilled” life is a hard way to live. In a society that does its fair share of telling us we don’t have enough and we could always have more it is our task to overcome the notion and respond by showing how little one really needs to be happy. To show that time spent is more valuable than items on a shelf or in a closet. And that time cannot only be divided, it can be shared.

As I got older I realized it wasn’t just about getting what you wanted but also about getting what you needed at the time that you needed it. That’s hard to see when you’re little and life is so concrete, but I have hope that my girls will one day know in the same way that I did, that despite what they thought was unfair, the love was always present and equally divided and no one was skimped on or cheated in that department. After all, we’re about to divide what was equally halved, into equal thirds. Thankfully, I’ve learned that rather than diminishing, love grows when divided.

{In related news} A couple days after I formulated this entry, while standing on the check-out line, I glanced at a headline which caught my eye. Time magazine’s cover read: Why Mom Liked you Best: the science of favoritism. It really speaks to what we feel and why. While you have to be a subscriber to read the article in its entirety online, you can access some snip-its including a video clip here http://ti.me/nL5Vti