Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs daily at Aleteia. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.
As a mother of lots of kids, I think a lot about treating them fairly. They make sure I think about it a lot: "Hey, she got more pudding than I did!" "Hey, you never let us watch Jaws when we were that age!" "No fair, he got an extra ten minutes on Minecraft, but I didn't even get to save my chickens!"
It's enough to make you crazy, or crazier. But in a big family, especially, it really is necessary to keep track of things and try to keep them just and fair and evenly distributed. If you don't keep track, you're likely to find out that one especially squeaky kid has gotten all the grease, while a more reserved child gets unintentionally gypped. So I do constantly assess how fair I'm being, and we make adjustments as necessary.
You can take this kind of thing too far, though. Sometimes, the pressure to keep everything fair and even makes everything worse for everybody. More times than I can count, I've had a kid come up and ask me to read a book. Not wanting to "waste" a precious book reading on just one kid with our busy schedule, I call for the other little kids.
Well, one doesn't want to stop reading her comic book, which annoys me. One bursts into tears because she is going through a sensitive stage right now and thinks she is in trouble every time someone calls her name. One is in the bathroom, and is likely to be there all afternoon, for reasons no one wants to think about. And one is now mad at me, because he just started making toast and doesn't want to be rude by declining a book reading, but he also really wants his toast, so he will heroically abandon it, but he's genuinely hungry, and is going to sit there scowling and sighing while I read, if I can get around to reading.
The upshot? No one gets read to. And all because I was trying to be fair!
So I'm working on treating the kids more as individuals, rather than trying to maximize my parenting efforts all the time. Kid wants a book? Sure, I can spend ten minutes with you, just you. Because I love you! Anyone else who wants to join in is welcome, but we're not going to go to any great efforts to make sure everyone gets the same amount of book time per 48-hour period.
As so often happens when I'm sorting out how to be a better parent, I realize that Jesus is sitting back watching me, and going, "Oh, you figured that out, did you? Aren't you smart. Now, does it sound at all familiar?" (My savior is kind of sarcastic, go figure.)
Because, lest we forget, lest we forget: Jesus died for everybody, true. But He also died for each of us, specifically, individually, lovingly. Inefficiently. He would have died just for me. Why, I do not know. But I know it wasn't just poetic license when God says that the hairs on my head are counted. Salvation is not some kind of corporate endeavor for maximum efficiency. It's not efficient, and, thank God, it's not fair. He does things for me because He behaves as if I'm the only one in the universe, the only one who needs His love.
So here's the lesson: There is no such thing as wasting time by caring for just one person. Love isn't supposed to be efficient. So take the opportunties to show love, whether you're a mother or a father, or anybody who is called on to give a little bit. Don't worry so much about maximizing your gift. Don't worry about keeping the accounts fair and just. It never was about justice anyway.