The good kid vs the, um, not-so-good kid

The Taz called me yesterday after school to let me know the good news.

“Guess what!” he exclaimed. “I made the Student Council!” I couldn’t contain my excitement for him as I told him how proud I was of him. This was an achievement that he had been striving for all year long. He had tried unsuccessfully at the beginning of the year, but his behavior and classroom habits weren’t good enough to be able to run. His teacher let him down gently as he explained all the duties of being on the student council, and how my son hadn’t exhibited the kind of behavior that warranted such responsibility. Needless to say, my son was crushed. But the teacher also told my son that if he worked hard and proved that he could be responsible, he might be able to run again later on. So the fact that my son was able to run this time was a big deal. Being voted in by his classmates was the icing on the cake.

To celebrate, I told him we’d pick out something for dessert that night, and that I would let him pick out dinner. I was trying to think of ways to make this an even bigger deal. I even mulled over singing him “Congratulations to you” to the tune of Happy Birthday. Don’t worry, that idea never manifested. But I was just beaming with pride. I immediately let Mr. Wonderful know, and then let the rest of the world know by posting the news as my Facebook status.

I picked the kids up after work, and we were on our way to the store. (Sidenote: I think this is the first time that the Taz had no problem going grocery shopping since it was for his special celebration dinner. Note to self: let the Taz be in charge more over deciding dinner options.) I asked the Taz what he wanted to eat, and he rattled off idea after idea until a decision was finally made. And that’s when another voice piped up in the back seat.

“You never made this big of a deal when I made Student Council…..”

Sometimes having two kids is like a shaky balancing act.

It’s true, even though I argued the point with the Drama Queen. The stone cold truth was I really didn’t make this big of a deal about her achievement. I had been proud of her, for sure. I had congratulated her. But I did not have visions of singing her any songs to the tune of “Happy Birthday”.

Does this make me fail as a parent?

The thing about good kids is that their good deeds can go unnoticed. My daughter has always been the “good kid”. Teachers have raved about her whenever we get together for conferences, telling me how incredibly helpful she is and how she always manages to get her work in on time. And they rave about the amount of care and effort she puts into her work. I have never had to stand over her and prompt her to finish her homework, or even to remind her about dates for projects. She keeps tabs on it and just does it herself, and every once in awhile she will hand me a paper or two that need my signature. If I need help in the housework – such as clearing the dishrack before I wash the dishes – I only have to ask her once. When I am making dinner, she will even take it upon herself to just start clearing the table so we can eat that night. Even though she and her brother fight nonstop, at times when he needs some extra help she is right there to guide him. In essence, she is the kid that doesn’t need to be worried about because she is dependable.

Her brother, on the other hand….. Well, you’ve read all the stories about him. He’s the one who comes home missing half of his clothes and seriously has no idea where they went. You can give him very clear instructions, repeating them three times, and he will forget them immediately. He forgets his lunch at home, does half his homework and forgets about the rest, cries if we have to do something that infringes on his free time, does somersaults in the middle of a crowded room because he is bored….. I could go on and on. If you really want to know more, just read a couple of my past blogs.

When I was young, my parents’ favorite story they told me was how good of a baby I was. And they were thankful for this. When I was one year old they had my younger sister and she required all of their attention. So thank goodness I was a happy baby. They would prop me up on a pillow, stick a bottle in my mouth, and then tend to my sister. They were proud of this story.

Me? I think this story sucks.

How nice that I got to sit staring at a wall sucking on my bottle that was propped up in my mouth while the baby was consoled and cooed at. How nice that I was a happy baby that needed no attention so that they could give it to my sister.

How nice that my daughter has exceeded all expectations of a normal 11 year old so that it has become the norm for her to be great, and I am crowing about my son because he was able to stop standing on his head in class long enough to be voted into Student Council.

It’s a hard balance. In the black and white, it is totally unfair that a “good” kid is overlooked when they continuously do well, and the “not-so-good” kid is applauded whenever they make a step in the right direction. But in the grayscale of the situation, some kids need a little more prompting to continue on the right path because if their efforts aren’t noticed they’ll just stop doing well. I’d like to think that I give my daughter the proper attention and praise as she continues to excel in everything she does. But perhaps I have some work to do in that department.

Do you have more than one child with very different personalities?
How do you cater to their needs while making things fair?
Do you ever feel like your parenting might be off balance in favor of one child over the other?

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4 thoughts on “The good kid vs the, um, not-so-good kid”

  1. I don’t think you are a bad parent for this having happened…it is an almost expected outcome to the situation. However, now that you HAVE recognized the inequality of the situation, perhaps keeping a sort of standard reward system in mind, when either child accomplishes something beyond the every day would help put everything back on even footing — even if that reward is as simple as having final say on what the family has for dinner that night, it acknowledges the effort involved in their accomplishment and encourages them to continue making that effort in the future. I think that now that you HAVE realized that you weren’t treating their successes equally, it won’t be as difficult to remember to give proper attention to both of their triumphs. And if you ever find yourself becoming lukewarm in your congratulations of one, ask yourself how you would react if the other had come to you with similar news.

  2. I know I didn’t treat you all equally as kids (I’m sure each one of you has comments on that), but you see how it happens innocently enough. One kid does things without being told while the other one has to be cattle prodded. The helpful kid gets overlooked, while the other one does something nice for once and gets praised. The happy older baby doesn’t get as much attention as the younger screaming baby sister. One kid is more demanding than the other two, and sometimes is given her way just to have some peace in the house. The youngest sister gets privileges at an earlier age than the older sisters did. And so on.

    When I had you, the oldest, I seriously didn’t think I could ever love another baby as much as I loved you. I do not brag about propping you up with a bottle in your mouth. I still feel a great amount of shame about that. I was a young mother, overwhelmed with a three-month old you and instantly pregnant with your sister. There’s something to be said about not barfing on the baby when you’re having morning sickness. Again. But, yes, thankfully you were a year old and almost walking when your sister came along. And it was a comfort that you were such a cheerful and content child. (I actually took a photo of you crying once just because it was such a rare occurance.)

    Parenthood is OJT. None of us comes completely prepared to always do the right thing by our children. But hopefully, the mistakes are minor and teach us to be better parents along the way.

  3. Believe me, I write this because I understand more and more about how easy it is to treat your kids differently, and how hard it is to be 100% fair. There is all the intention in the world to be fair. But sometimes, it’s lopsided. And to me, it almost seems impossible for it not to be lopsided. Let’s say that I praise my daughter for every good deed she does, and do the same for my son. I am going to be heaping much more praise on my daughter. And that’s just because it comes naturally for her to do good while my son has to work on it a lot more. So if I parented this way, my son would decide that I loved his sister more than I love him, because I am constantly praising her. And if I go the other route, encouraging him more and recognizing every single one of his efforts and only a portion of my daughter’s, then I love him more in her eyes. Can’t win. One thing that I do now to try and balance it out is to slip her a little extra allowance, or priveleges, or go out of my way to tell her how proud I am of her in private moments. This way she is getting the recognition she deserves without anyone crying about how fair it is.

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