I have two little girls (and one little boy – but he’s the easy one in this story). For the two little girls, everything must match. The water in their glasses must be to precisely the same height, and is measured accordingly. I’m dispatched to the tap, to even things up. The number of chips on each plate must be equal. The number of teddies on each bed must be even. The number of dresses in the wardrobe must be the same. And I would never come home from the shops with a new dress for one and not the other – there would be consternation, confusion and tears. I’ve probably brought this on myself, by starting the practice of keeping everything equal – now they expect it. But that’s how it was when my three sisters and I were small, so I carried on the habit. Even if that means constantly searching for two purses/ books/ packs of socks that are equally nice but slightly different.
It can be time-consuming. Today I bought a navy dress for my five-year-old, to wear on Christmas Day. I thought I was being quite clever buying it now, because I can give it to her as her “present” after my upcoming weekend away (it’s easier to buy presents before I go – does everyone do that?) If I’m going to buy dresses for them anyway, they may as well double up as presents, instead of duty free chocolate.
So I just needed to get a different but equally nice dress for the seven-year-old. I found one that I knew she’d love, but it was ivory. Not very practical. And where the navy dress will double up as a party dress after Christmas, the ivory one was just a bit too….ivory. And it wouldn’t work well with spilled gravy. Nor with tears following spilled gravy. But the main reason I couldn’t buy it was that it was fancier than the navy one. The five-year-old would not be impressed.
So I needed to find a dress that was suitable for Christmas Day, that could be worn to parties for the rest of the year, that works well with gravy, ketchup and chocolate, and that’s about the same level of glamour as a navy dress. And all in ten minutes, because I was on my lunch break. I searched two more shops, but everything screamed Christmas – bright red and gold dresses – some very pretty, but not really suitable for the rest of the year, and not likely to maintain an even keel between two little rivals.
Then I found some gold sparkly shoes. The kind of gold sparkly shoes that seven-year-old girls quite like. Or love. They had her size. She needs shoes – they both do. They have school shoes, and sensible boots, but no nice shoes for parties and movie premiers and royal balls, or whatever social events might come up (and yes, I am absolutely making excuses here – nobody actually needs gold sparkly shoes)
So I bought the shoes. The presents from my upcoming weekend away were sorted. But hang on – they don’t match up. I can’t even work out which will be deemed superior, but I suspect each girl will eye up her sister’s gift with a covetous stare.
Does a navy dress trump sparkly gold shoes, or vice versa? I don’t know, and I’m not brave enough to find out. Both purchases have been hidden in the wardrobe, and I’ll try again tomorrow – I need to match up. Either a dress-that-is-fancy-but-not-more-so-than-navy (in the eyes of a five-year-old) or another pair of sparkly shoes.
Anyway, at least I just have this one present to worry about – when I think about Christmas, and the need to have two of everything; similar, equally good, but not the same, I feel very, very sorry Santa.