Published on June 1st, 2013 | by Ernie0
Separate But Equal
Most Americans who hear the phrase ‘separate but equal’ understand the history behind it and the hatred conveyed in the theory that public accommodations were to be made separate based upon race on the condition that the quality of the accommodations were equal. This doctrine, adopted by the U.S. largely after the Civil War, was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 (Brown v. Board of Education). Fortunately, the highest court in the land was absolutely correct on this one. This sense of equality has spread throughout our country since then…that is, until we start the discussion on kids.
OK…maybe not ‘we’. I’m only going to speak about kids I know all too well: my kids.
During the year our son (the oldest child) turned 1, my wife and I started to discuss growing our family to include another member. We talked about what the changes for our son might be and how we would manage two young personalities – not to mention the changes in ourselves. Of course, in that discussion we also pondered how things would be different if we had a girl. Would there be differences in the way we treated them?
My wife, being the second of two siblings (and later becoming the middle of three after her mother’s second marriage), was a staunch supporter of equality for all – that what you do for and how you treat one is what you do for and how you treat the second, regardless of gender.
I told her I agreed…but with a twist.
I agreed with my wife that an action should prompt the exact same reaction, provided that the action itself was exactly the same. For instance, if our son were to hit his sister, then whatever punishment was doled out to him would be doled out to our daughter were she to hit her brother.
My ‘twist’ reared its ugly head when we talked about dating. I felt our son should be allowed to date when he felt he was ready, provided that he composed himself as a respectful individual. On the other hand, I had no issue telling my wife that our daughter should not be allowed to date until she was well into adulthood (I’m pretty sure the phrase “30 or over” was thrown about). Sounds about typical for a dad and his baby girl, right?
And, true to form, my lovely wife informed me that I was in possession of a double standard.
The truth is I do have some double standards, but not with my kids. The defense I raised to my wife was that it’s not really about the age of the kids or who they are as brother and sister – it’s about treating each one fairly in accordance with whom they are. I love my kids unconditionally, and that will never change. But the way I praise, punish or converse with them will as they change – I am the bad cop to my wife’s good cop (just as it should be, if you ask me).
For example, there was an instance where my family was enjoying an evening at a friend’s house with a few other families with children of similar age. Our daughter was channeling her inner teenager and was being – for lack of a better word – ‘bitchy’. My wife tried twice to explain to her that she could not behave that way or she wouldn’t have any friends. Before my wife’s third attempt, I simply scooped up my baby girl, told my wife that she was done and that we were leaving. My wife apologized to our friends, corralled our son and we all went home to the tune of me continuing to discipline our daughter.
On the contrary, when my son begins to act up in public, all it takes is a strong glare or a stern warning for him to crumble and start behaving in an acceptable manner. Literally, I can bring him to the verge of tears with a stare or a stern look. Yes, part of the difference is the age difference between my son and daughter. However, there was no way that we would let my son get away with the same behavior when he was younger, and we’re convinced we would not have had to reprimand him then to the extent that we have to with our daughter now.
In light of a few occasions similar to the one I just described, my wife has now stated to me that I might be onto something with my ‘twist’.
At the end of the day, we’re just like every other parent – just piecing it together and making it up as we go along…and that’s OK. My point here is that no matter how your kids act, you do what you do. Treat them however you decide to, and that’s fine. It’s not about making sure you’re treating them equally. It’s about treating them fairly based on the individuals they are.
Between me and my wife, it’s gotten to the point where she thinks I might be right on this. And that’s as close as I might ever be to being right about anything.