Friday, December 09, 2005

Separate but equal

I've been corresponding with Lisa, who asked about gift ideas for the kids. I gave her some ideas and she wrote back today to ask about parallel gifting and how closely the items needed to correspond: ie, if Julia gets a dress and Robin gets a shirt, will domestic havoc ensue?

The topic had already been on my mind, and I had come to the conclusion (encouraged by some of what was discussed at the parent-teacher conference I mentioned earlier) that the inclination to keep everything parallel as a matter of course is probably a disservice to the girls, since their lives don't, won't and shouldn't actually work that way.

They also seem to be at a point where their interests are starting to diverge. Julia still enjoys the kiddie stuff like Barney, Backyardigans and Bob the Builder (plus a few that that don't start with B).

Robin readily watches these shows when they're on, but she is clearly moving on. She begged for a diary and grown-up gifts, loved her slumber party and, get this, is no longer inclined to find things scary. Remember how big an issue that was for so long?

Now Julia is the one who gets scared by (most recently) the Care Bear movie. I didn't watch it with her, but I did read the box before we rented it and it was supposed to be about how Sunshine Bear, who likes to make people laugh, goes on a quest to the land of Joke-a-Lot.

In her laid-back Julia way, she doesn't get distressed about it beforehand the way Robin used to ("what if it's scary?"), but eagerly says she wants to watch new things, only to get scared partway through.

Anyway, I'm not one to go overboard in any given direction and I don't mind if they have or are given matching stuff (matching outfits given to them by José & Yolanda on Robin's birthday come to mind...), but it does seem like a good idea to think a little more about their individual tastes and abilities, at least when I am the one choosing things.

However. That's not to say they're going to like it. Julia cried brokenheartedly for half an hour when Robin got her desk.

This whole post actually began as a quick preamble to a brief anecdote that I would have told Lisa in my latest E-mail, but which I didn't think of until it was too late. So now I leave you with the story:

Some time ago, Yolanda bought a package of what my family has always called Sugar Cereals and gave it to me to give to the girls. There were four kinds - one of each - packaged in individual servings the way potato chips are. The bags were clearly different and, just as clearly, entirely comparable.

I showed the four bags to the girls and asked them to each think about which one they would want, without saying anything to each other. I then told them that, in order to try and give everyone what they wanted, I would have them each whisper to me which color they wanted. They chose different colors, so I told them the good news and gave each one her first choice. Robin was so mad she almost couldn't eat (and definitely couldn't enjoy) her orange whatever-they-were because Julia got the one she wanted.


mom December 09, 2005 9:28 PM  

Well, for the most part they are getting parallel gifts from us this Christmas. But there are a couple of items without mates. Still, I felt compelled to keep the number the same.

As for the cereal trauma:
A remember two little girls who always wanted the biggest piece (or the biggest "half" if shared) of treats. In an effort for "equal" halves, we would say that the one who divided the item had to let the other choose which half she wanted. Once, when I was fed up with the angst this sometimes caused, I gave them both oreos - as you recall, a rare treat in our household. Wearily I proclaimed that they were equal. So Big Sister smugly told Little Sister, "Yes, but mine is More Equal than yours."

lisa December 09, 2005 11:40 PM  

You cut, I choose lasted us well into adulthood...

A nice story, Mom. It's good to know I wasn't always the snotty one!

Jennifer December 10, 2005 10:45 AM  

I figured the Oreo story would surface here.

The thing is, I remembered the story but didn't realize it was from our family.

Maybe it happened when I was too young to remember and then it was confusingly retold in the Third Person. I can almost imagine how that would sound...

Sandy December 10, 2005 3:17 PM  

I love to hear the family interaction and great to hear from you, Carol. I come from a family of 8 children with a sister 1 1/2 years younger than me. My mom never worried about us having the same thing, in fact she was an expert at giving the gift to match the person. She did, however give us all the same number of gifts. Matter of fact, we had identical twins and she didn't even get them the same things. It's can be a dilema.

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