Friday, April 6, 2012

Jellybean Counters

I have a vivid memory from when I was a teenager, probably about fourteen or fifteen. It was very late at night, on the night before Easter, and the house was dark and quiet. Something awakened me, and I realized that there was a light shining up the stairs from the kitchen.

I got out of bed and crept down the stairs to find my mother sitting at the kitchen table, dressed in her night clothes. She had our Easter baskets on the table before her, along with an assortment of candies and plastic eggs. She looked exhausted.

On observing her for a moment, I realized that she was actually sorting the jellybeans by color, and counting them before she filled each plastic egg.

I must have laughed. She looked up at me in despair and said, "I don't want anyone to feel left out. I have to make sure everything is equal."

Now that I'm a mother myself, I understand more what she was trying to do. My own method of dividing the Easter candy is more of a quick stuff and snap, rather than counting and color coding each individual jellybean. I do carefully make sure that everyone has an equal number of plastic eggs, filled with equivalent amounts of chocolates, jellybeans , etc.

Why do I do this? Because as a mother, I want all of my children to feel equally loved, as they are. I never want any of them to feel as if they are cherished less than the others. Something as simple as an Easter basket is a tangible and easy way to show this.

The everyday reality is harder to demonstrate. On a given day, I may need to give more of myself to one of my children and less to the others. If someone is sick, or struggling in math, or simply wants to curl up and read together, I might end up spending more time with that child than with the others.

With possessions too, things sometimes might look unequal. One child might be on a growth spurt and need new clothes or shoes, when a sibling doesn't. If just one child  really needs a new bike, it doesn't mean that the others will receive new bikes then too.

My kids, being kids, are apt to point out these discrepancies in an attempt to guilt me into giving them what their siblings have received. "It's not fair!" is a battle cry that children learn early in life.

I've already admitted here that I'm just as prone to attacks of mom guilt as anyone. But I remind myself, and my children, that love doesn't work that way. I love each of my children equally, each of them with all of my heart. I treasure them though, as individuals, and that is the way that they are treated. Each of them will receive from my husband and I, what they need at the time. What doesn't come their way today will surely come tomorrow, or whenever it should.

This weekend will find me spending some time behind a locked door dividing up candy. I will try not to stress out if it's impossible to split the peanut butter eggs three ways. It's not my love that I'm dividing, but only candy. Besides, I can always eat the extra egg myself! Happy Easter to all of you fellow jellybean counters out there.

1 comment: