Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another Thought About Siblings and Fairness

(Originally posted at Rational Jenn)

Oh my goodness--I have so many things I'd love to write about and so little time in which to do so that I have a strange little queue of unwritten blog posts in my brain (and in Blogger, too). So, here's one.

After I wrote the post about siblings yesterday, I thought of a better example of the "Equal and fair are not the same thing" principle.

One of the more challenging sibling-differences we face concerns Ryan's peanut allergy. I'm sure you all know this, but it never hurts to say it again--Ryan has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts. Morgan does not.

Now, we don't keep peanuts or peanut-containing products in the house. I don't see this changing any time soon, as we still have Sean to think about, and we have committed to Ryan that our house--HIS house--will be as safe for him as we can possibly make it. While they are all so young, this means a zero-tolerance policy about peanuts. I can imagine that we may reevaluate this policy one day, but not until they are all much older.

Making our house a peanut-free zone definitely falls under the idea of "Equal and fair are not the same thing."

I certainly have a lot of sympathy with parents of kids without food allergies, who are nonetheless affected by food allergies--can't bring cupcakes to school, etc.

Why? Because Morgan is one of those kids and she is REALLY affected, because she doesn't even have the option of eating a yummy nutritious peanut-laden snack at home. We have to create circumstances where it's okay for her to eat something with peanuts in it. She's going to a birthday party this weekend where she'll get to eat absolutely anything she likes. (Ryan won't be there--it'll be weird for me not to have to check a label or ask the manager about peanuts!)

It's not fair to Morgan, no. (It's REALLY not fair to Ryan, having the allergy to begin with.) And the fact that one child can eat something the other can't isn't equal either. But each child has an right to safety in our home. Ryan's safety depends on our home being peanut-free, so we must all accept the unfairness of not getting to eat PB&Js.

Conversely, when we go out in public, Morgan will get to eat things that Ryan doesn't. (We haven't actually faced this yet.) Even if Ryan were attending this birthday party, I would still allow Morgan to eat whatever she liked. Not fair to Ryan, but Morgan should be able to eat what she likes of food that's safe for her when we are outside the home. As long as reasonable precautions were taken to protect Ryan--and we would certainly take them--then it would be Ryan dealing with unfairness. Again.

This unfairness is something he is somewhat used to by now--but he's never been faced with this from a sibling before. I think that the first time we are all together at an event where Morgan (and possibly Sean) is eating something he can't will be very difficult for Ryan. It's hard enough for him to accept that his friends don't have this peanut restriction--but I suspect that it will be harder for him to face that his sister doesn't either.

I don't know exactly how it will play out--it could go better than I'm imagining. When we deal with this in real life, I'll be sure to let you know.

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