For the first time ever--but certainly not the last-- this morning, one of my children uttered, "It's not fair. All the other kids get to___________!" Now the first part of this statement has been repeated endlessly for the past months as the older two have become obsessively concerned with perceived fairness, especially in terms of each other. Yes, I know it's developmentally appropriate, but it doesn't make it any less annoying. However, the second part of this phrase threw me for a loop. I knew I would hear it at some point--just not this soon.
I had to bite back the words that immediately jumped in my brain and/or were some sort of Pavlovian response from my own childhood: Either a comeback full of great sarcasm (and five-year-olds don't get sarcasm and it's just mean, anyway) or the infamous "Well, you're not like all the other kids. You're a/an ___________ (fill in last name here)!" The second response must have been taught at parenting school in the 1960s-70s as both my husband and I have talked about hearing that endless times growing up and swore we would never say it to our own kids. It was so fraught with both expectation and elitism. While pregnant, we would laugh about doubling up on the kid with a "You're an A-------C-------!" where the child would get the weight of both sets of names and all the numerous expectations that combination carries.
Don't get me wrong. I love being identified with my family name. I kept it when I was married and all three of my sons carry it as their middle name. When my father died this past December, I was moved beyond words reading his obituary and seeing the list of names he was survived by, six of the seven children still carrying our family name. A----, A----, A----, etc. just had some sort of power to it.
So, when I heard the "all the other kids" thing, I pushed back my initial responses and went for an innocuous, "Well, all different families do different things. Different families have different rules." And despite my vow to say, "yes'' this week, I still didn't let them watch television before school this morning because that's how we roll in the A------C------ household.
*And no, I didn't bring out the if-all-the-other-kids-jumped-off-the-bridge response either---yet.