“What your brother does has no bearing on what you do. You are your own person.”
This was the catchphrase of the weekend. It was first coined by my wise husband but was directed to each of the three children at various points by both of us, in this form or with slight modification. As in this exchange:
“Daryl, will you please put your laundry away?”
“What about Hal?! Why doesn’t he have to put HIS laundry away?”
“What I ask your brother to do is irrelevant to what I have asked you to do. Please put away your laundry.”
“But Hal doesn’t have to put his away!”
The most ironic part of this exchange is that I had every intention of telling Hal to put his laundry away. I just wanted Daryl to go first so there would be enough room on the couch to sort Hal’s clothes into piles. This is a necessary aid if I expect the three-year old to put the laundry where it belongs.
Another time, Jane had been told to unload the dishwasher, which is her regular chore, but she was not in the kitchen.
“Jane, why aren’t you unloading the dishwasher?”
“Because I told Daryl about one of his chores that he hasn’t done and he’s still not in there doing it.”
“What your brother does or does not do is not your concern. Go unload the dishwasher.”
“No! It’s not fair. I don’t have to do my chore until he does his.”
And here’s an ever popular one. It happens the same no matter who you speak to first.
“Please go practice your viola.”
“But Daryl hasn’t practiced his violin yet!”
Children have such an incredible sense of fairness, at least when the perceived inequity harms them. If you give one a piece of candy, you must give all one or it’s not fair. If you tell one to do a chore, the other must do one too. If one gets to spend the night with a friend, you better have something planned for the other.
With the focused attention on “You are your own person”, I hope this weekend has made a difference. I hope they have begun to learn that you do the right thing, you do what your parents tell you, you do what needs to be done, regardless of what anyone else is doing.
It’s not an easy lesson for anyone to learn, children or adults, so I am sure the lesson will be repeated many times. We each have only control over our own actions. We can’t control what other people do, so there’s no point in living our lives in comparison. Furthermore, a person will not get very far in life if they wait to act until someone else has done something.