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When I turned 16 in 1990, my
parents generously bought me a two-toned brown 1978 Cutlass Supreme that my
friends and I affectionately named The
Dookie. I was so in love with that
car because it spelled freedom and independence and only broke down four times
in the first six months I drove it to and from school. Four years later, it was my little sister’s
turn to lawfully get behind the wheel of her own car. The
Dookie was long gone, so she got her own set of wheels. It was a subdued, mono-toned red Acura that
didn’t inspire a fecal-themed nickname.
In short, her car was as sleek as
mine was laughable.
was hard not to compare our experiences. It was even harder not to roll out the “F” word in front of my
parents. Only in jest of course. (Except not really.) I couldn’t help myself, and one night long
after both my sister and I had moved on to our second or subsequent cars, I
said it: “That wasn’t fair.” The
general theme of my argument was that my sister got way better stuff than I
did—the car being the emblematic example.
remember it my mother mentioned something about Reaganomics and my parents’
improving economic situation as my sister was hitting milestones like “old
enough to drive.” At the time, I
remember thinking that blaming Ronald Reagan for why I drove The Dookie and my sister got a totally
pimped out ride was amusing. I gave my
parents points for being creative but it didn’t fix my feeling that everything
my sister got was better than the version I got.
I became a parent.
I do wish I could make everything “even” for them, but I can’t.
I began to understand how impossible it is to make things fair for my two children, especially if by “fair” I mean “totally equal.” Both of my kids have just starting slinging around the word “fair,” and sometimes I just laugh because they are arguing over who got a bigger serving of food that neither of them has any intention of eating.
sometimes it stops me cold. Like when my 4-year-old daughter complains that I am still nursing her little
brother. Her nursing days came to a
close when she was 10 months old because the milk dried up when I got pregnant
with her brother. That brother is now 32 months
old and still nursing.
I hold my breath when she says it’s
not fair. First of all, she’s right.
It’s not fair that her brother gets the gift of nursing up to three times as
long as she did. It also sucks that she
has to sit around while her brother and I are nursing—he never once had to wait
for her to nurse to go outside and play.
I don’t know what to do except
agree with her and tell her how much I loved nursing her and that I wished we
could still nurse. Because that’s all
true. I try to think of a president or policy or anything (El Niño? The Defense
of Marriage Act? Reality TV?) that I could blame the inequality on, but nothing
really works like Reaganomics worked for my parents. I do wish I could make everything “even” for
them, but I can’t. It’s different, and
there’s nothing I can do about it, except trust that even if it’s not perfectly
fair, it may be OK.