"Mom, that's not fair! Yesterday you gave Emily more money for the book fair than you just gave me!"
I remember this scene as though it just happened: In a mad dash to get my elementary school-aged daughters prepared for school one morning, I quickly surveyed their backpacks and homework folders and school lunches to make sure all was at ready. Check! Then I remembered it was Sarah's day to attend her school's annual book fair. So I scrounged around in my purse, dug out my wallet, and handed her several bills for making purchases. But somehow, Sarah, my eldest, knew how much I'd given Emily the previous day for her grade's visit to the book fair—several dollars more than I'd handed Sarah.', 'Sarah's protest caught me off guard, but it shouldn't have. Girls only two years apart in age had a way of keeping score—and reminding me when I fell short.
My first thought was to hand over more cash, the easy way out; I was in no mood for whining. Then my acquiescence turned to annoyance. What does Sarah mean, "unfair"? I inwardly harrumphed. Does she have any idea how much her dad and I routinely spend on her? I thought of all of Sarah's activities—her ice-skating lessons and private coaching, the costumes and registration fees and travel expenses for competitions. From purely a spending perspective, Emily, who'd not yet found her niche in any extracurricular activity, could claim to be the shortchanged one.
A little too sharply, I told Sarah it was none of her business how much I'd given Emily. Then I bit my tongue before I launched into a lengthier tirade. To be honest, I wasn't sure how to justify my actions so Sarah would understand. How could I explain to this enthusiastic and capable reader that Emily needed more encouragement, more motivation, than she did? That giving Emily a few extra dollars was my way of trying to kindle within her a passion for reading Sarah already had?1