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Fayette-Mom: It's not a contest!

Posted October 17, 2011

Jennifer Joyner

If I’ve said it once to my kids, I’ve said it a hundred times: “It is not a contest!”

Oh, but everything is a contest to my kids these days. I find they are intent on one-upping each other in any way they can. Emma brags about a note of praise her teacher sent home, Eli rubs it in that the dog prefers to sleep in his room at night. And they are constantly policing the “stuff” that their sibling is accumulating, with Eli ticked that Emma got to buy more books at the book fair (she used her own money) or Emma steaming about the purchase of a new winter coat for her brother (never mind that that the five coats and jackets she already has is more than she’ll ever need).

The little “fact-checkers” follow me throughout the house, quizzing me on who’s turn it is to pick a movie to watch/play on the computer/have a friend over for an afternoon. It seems I’m always doing calculations in my head, trying to keep track of who gets what and how much and gosh, I better get this right or there will be a meltdown for sure.

Quite frankly, I’ve had it.

With contests, there’s always a winner and always a loser and no matter how many i’s I dot or t’s I cross, someone, at least once in a while is going to get the short end of the stick. The power may go out right when it’s Eli’s turn on the computer, or the playmate who is finally due over to be with Emma might get sick and have to cancel, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. Life…it just isn’t always fair.

I tell them that I love them both, and I want happiness for them equally, but I will no longer be held hostage by little tyrants with such long memories. Anyone caught keeping score will have to open up their treasures and let their brother and sister choose an item. To keep. Forever.

Honestly, I thought they’d keel over from that new rule. The very thought of something of theirs being taken by the other has
kept them tending to their own yard and keeping their mouths shut. I no longer have to hide the Target bag in the closet, or mentally run through a checklist of who got what when before making a purchase.

Yep, Mommy won this game.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.


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  • snowl Oct 18, 2011

    Our old home movie has a related quote caught on tape from (way back) when my daughter turned 2 years old. Her big brother was almost 7 and he walked her into the room to show her the birthday gifts she could open. "ALL for you, and none for me", he told her.... And yes, we do have the tape where my son got to open all of HIS presents when it was his birthday. Kids are so honest!
    I love that about them :)

  • Pseudonym Oct 18, 2011

    Good policy.

    Here's another idea if you need to up the ante: The other sibling chooses an item to be donated to Goodwill. Stress that it will go to a boy or girl who will appreciate it and be thankful for it instead of being envious of what someone else has.

  • jamcclamroch Oct 18, 2011

    My mom always told us "Life's not fair" growing up. Sure my brothers and I argued, don't all siblings? Yet, all 3 of us grew up knowing nothing was entitled to us and we had to work for things and most importantly, life isn't always fair!

  • righthere1234 Oct 18, 2011

    I'm going to have to file this away for later. I already feel guilty when I go to the store and buy something for one child and not for the other. They're only 5 and 1 so they don't really care at this point, but if *I* start now on that path then I'm in for a long haul.

  • river Oct 18, 2011

    Great idea! I'm going to try this with mine.