• Should be spending the exact same amount of money per child when it comes to Christmas presents? (iStockphoto/Getty)
Ian Rose frets about being even-handed with presents for his kids. And hopes he’s not gift-wrapping them a sense of entitlement.
By
Ian Rose

12 Dec 2017 - 4:20 PM  UPDATED 12 Dec 2017 - 4:25 PM

“Check out this book I picked up today as a Christmas present. He’s going to love this.”

My partner removes from its paper bag a hardback compendium of spiders, the glossy-fanged face of a funnelweb glowering from the front cover. She’s right. This will blow our six year-old son’s arachnid-obsessed, sick little mind.

“Nice. How much was it? Are we keeping track of how much we spend on both of them?”

“Does it matter that we spend the same?” she harrumphs, stuffing the book into its hiding place at the back of the wardrobe.

“Well, yeah, it does. I want to make sure we keep things fair.”

We’ve got two kids, six and eight years old. If spiders sit at the top of his wish list, on hers it’s anything to do with Harry Potter.

A parent of guilt-stricken self-doubt, I feel a deep need to be even-handed. With love. With time and attention. With ice-cream scoops, Easter eggs, and the crap they get on birthdays and at Christmas. I have this thing about it.

A parent of guilt-stricken self-doubt, I feel a deep need to be even-handed.

Maybe it’s because I have one sibling, too. Bringing us up in suburban England’s dreary nineteen-seventies and eighties, our folks were always abstemious about equitable treatment, chores and gifts included.

Every Christmas morning, our stockings would bulge equivalently. (Though now I think about it, I always had the bigger bedroom.)

I want to show these two the same consideration. Not foster any rivalry or resentments. (Note to self: must find time for a chat with my sister about that whole bedroom disparity thing. Clear the air.)

My partner thinks this a crock. Our kids should wise up, learn that life ain’t always fair, things will mainly even themselves out in the end, and when they don’t, well them’s the breaks.

 She says we should discourage them from investing importance in material possessions, too, certainly from seeing them as any measure of love. They shouldn’t feel it matters if they don’t get the same. 

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She reckons she’s less hung up on sibling justice than me because she’s Asian. She was brought up understanding that different family members have different roles, of uneven expectations and rewards, and that you just get on with it. It’s white kids like my sister and me who end up screwed up, destined for disappointment through our sense of entitlement.

I admonish her for making sweeping racial generalisations, and manage, with uncharacteristic speed of reaction, to duck as she throws a nectarine at my head.

“I want them to expect equality, to demand it,” I persist, warming to my theme. “It’s like that mantra we give them. You know. ‘You get what you get and you don’t get upset’. That thing we say?”

“What about it.”

“If everyone just accepts what they get and doesn’t get upset, the elite stays in control, nothing changes, there’s no progress.”

She’s looking at me with pity now.

“We say ‘you get what you get and you don’t get upset’ when they don’t like their dinner, to get them to eat it. It’s got nothing to do with fairness. You’re an idiot.”

My partner thinks this a crock. Our kids should wise up, learn that life ain’t always fair, things will mainly even themselves out in the end, and when they don’t, well them’s the breaks.

She has a point. And not just about the idiot thing.

My making a big deal about how much of everything each kid gets, and how the other deserves the same, does neither any favours. And I can’t say I like the way they’ve been squabbling over ice cream portions lately. I might have got this angle all wrong.

They’d surely be better off with their mother’s stoic outlook than my creeping dread of getting screwed over.

The best thing to do this Christmas is worry less about keeping things even, and get fewer presents for both of them. Parent by example in cutting back greed and waste. Show them it’s not the stuff that’s important.

Still, I’ll be keeping an eye out for some nice glossy Harry Potter hardback for our daughter over the next few days, don’t worry.  Life might not be fair, but Santa, at least, can give it a shot.

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