Monday, November 13, 2006

More Pig Eating

Being back in full-time ministry I suspected that my reading life would go to pieces and so I have tried to diary a monthly reading day and will be equally trying to get away for a two night reading retreat twice a year. Trying to feed others is impossible if you don't eat.

Today I have finished this wonderful little book and would like to share one final 'thinking' problem.

A couple have three sons and always treat them fairly at Christmas, budgetting the same spend on each of them. This year they all want the same games consuls and at £100 each they are exactly within the budget.

As they go to make the purchase they see a special offer in the store. If they buy two of the newer versions of the games consuls at £150 they will get one of the earlier models (the one they were just about to buy) absolutely free. Same total spend and two better gifts. But would this be fair?

Surely it would, argues mum. One lad gets exactly what he wanted and was going to get anyway. Two do better.

But, argues Dad, the one who gets the old version will feel the poorer, for it is all comparative.

But both agree it would be stupid to buy less with their money than the best they can get. It's a tricky decision.

And it is. I remember geting my first proper bike aged 7. One month later my sister got one too. But she was three years younger than me so why should she get hers earlier? I got over it. Kids do. But I remember feeling a bit miffed.

Years later, tackling the parenting of seven year olds myself, the idea of fairness seemed unnecessarily restrictive. Why should we have to be fair and balanced all the time? The slogan, 'What do you want, a fair life or a fun one?' was born. I expect it annoyed my sons as much as the bike situation annoyed me but it seemed to work. From time to time one son was singled out for a treat which seemed appropriate without feeling the other one had to have something at the same time.

But the Christmas present problem poses the whole scenario sharply. Could you break it to the boys that one was doing less well then the other two?

I think I'd be inclined to put the problem to them and see if they could solve it. My boys once did a deal that instead of a small bedroom each and a shared playroom the one son would have the two small bedroms and the other would have the larger playroom as his bedroom. They lived more or less happily this way ever after.

I think empowering your kids is the answer, but as Julian Baggini says, on a local scale, all poverty is relative. We can feel poor if a neighbour gets rich even if we stay the same and it is not at our expense. And the same argument applies nationally and internationally. The inequality of presents poser asks us difficult questions about global poverty too.

Great book. Recommended. Maybe for Christmas?


Emma said...

I think the question you should be asking is why do all 3 children need the same games console? They would have more fun if they played together anyway. If they bought only one of the newer model as a joint present they would be saving half of the money, which they could spend on games for the console or other individualised presents. This surely has to be the answer to the conundrum?

Matthew McMurray said...

Or just buy a 10p bag of sweets telling them that when you were younger, you didn't have sweets ending with: "You don't know you're born!"

Anonymous said...

I'd get 'em an XBOX, PS2 and DS, so they had some cross-platform variety.

Matthew McMurray said...

I'd point out that Christmas is actually about the birth of Jesus and not about the materialism!

Yes, that was tongue-in-cheek!

Martin said...

You could always try giving them some gold, frankinsense and mhyrr