Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 197 - The Prodigal Daughter....Equal Treatment is NOT Fair

My sister and I would fight like cats and dogs when we were teenagers.  To which my mother's solution was to sit us on opposite ends of the same sofa and instruct us to keep quiet for a specific period of time.  The average time was thirty to forty-five minutes and we were so mad at my mother for this punishment that in the end we had turned our disdain toward her instead of each other.  My mother would always say, "I treat you two the same."  Well my argument comes from a management point of view.  If you have a worker who works extra and does superior work and always pitches in when needed without asking and another worker who is lazy and is late and has to be told what to do, would you give a paid day off to the lazy worker who needed it for a doctor's appointment?

My mother and I differ about what is "fair."  As a family that consisted of my sister and my mother there was a constant struggle between my sister and I that was more than sibling rivalry.  What was typical was the attempt to win my mother's attention.  The manner in which we did it differed greatly.  I tried to receive her accolades by being the honor roll student, participating in extracurricular activities, and obeying her rules.  My sister on the other hand cried when she didn't get what she wanted, lied to get what she wanted and broke a lot of the same rules my mother had made sure that as the oldest I would follow. My mother will tell you that she spanked me every day until I was five years old whether I needed it or not.  I'm sure that my sister didn't receive this treatment.

I always grew up knowing that life inside that triangular relationship was not fair.  It is the sole reason why I didn't return home once I had left for college for any holidays including Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I worked full-time to support myself through college (the first time) and it was easier to stay at college and celebrate an American tradition with a different family.

My mother gave my sister and I our own phone line for Christmas when I was a junior in high school.  My senior year, it would be a typical day in which after school I would spend between four and seven hours on ONE calculus problem.  So when I used the phone to call a classmate to compare our answers to this monstrous homework assignments, my sister would hang up the phone if she felt I was taking "too" long to do my homework and she wanted to talk to a boy or a friend.  The phone jack was in the hallway between our rooms.  So when I would come out to find out why the phone had gone dead, she would grab the phone and take it into her room and turn on ACDC at the maximum volume to get me to leave the hallway.  It worked the sound was deafening and I don't particularly like hard rock anyway. She then plugged the phone back in when I left the hallway and called her boyfriends.

Mom never came home directly from work and this made for a battle because my mother told us that I was to be "in charge."  Well the problem came when my sister didn't like this arrangement and rebelled at my temporarily given authority without power.  I always tried to do the right thing. Homework first, practice my flute, cook and clean.  There were many days when mother would get home and I hadn't finished my Calculus at 10 PM at night and hadn't even STARTED my english nor my spanish.  She would ask, "Why aren't the dishes done?"  I tried to explain to her that I was still doing my homework since 3:00 PM and hadn't even eaten yet. My sister had plenty of time to do the dishes but was too busy listening to rock music but never a word was said to her.

Mom thought same treatment was fair.  She would give us both the same amount of money.  She would give us both the same rules but her implementation of the consequence of not following the rules were different.  I was the first born, so she felt she had to make an example out of me when I didn't follow the rule.  I got grounded for a week that lasted a week.  When she didn't follow the rules, she got grounded for a week which lasted for a day or maybe two. I did most of the house work and had less time but better management skills.  And its true that if you do more, you are given more to do.  This was not equal, this was not fair.

Now that over thirty years have passed, my mother has two dogs with temperaments to match her daughters.  One is the perfect angel which barks, fetches, and comes to her on her demand.  The other one doesn't.  The second one does whatever it wants and seldom listens.  And the funny thing to observe is she treats them both equally.  And the irony is as I watch, I see it still isn't fair.  The right thing to do is to be fair and hold a person accountable for their actions with consequences for not following the rules. So my issue comes from the same argument, she treats them the same until one doesn't follow the rules and then she does NOT treat them the same.  A double standard. 

I never understood the Prodigal Son parable of the Bible because the good son was not treated fairly.  He had stayed, worked hard for his father and been loyal.  His brother left, squandered his worldly inheritance and then returned, asked for forgiveness and ended up getting more than the first son!  This seems unfair because the son who left actually got more by disobeying his father.  I can relate to the good son in this story and still don't understand why the father tells the older son to rejoice because his brother has returned and has asked for forgiveness.  Where were the consequences for such immature, selfish acts that lead him to leave and stay away? Nothing.  All was forgiven.

Consequences provide incentives to the people who are following the rules to continue to do so.  They also let those who don't follow the rules know that they will eventually have to do so also or they will have to leave.  The ones who don't receive consequences grow up to live on an island.  It is the ultimate consequence in and of itself. The habitant of the island perceives it as Paradise instead of punishment.  Perhaps a perception of inequality but a fair resolution for everyone. 

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