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Every year at Christmas, parents go crazy playing the game of "All Children Are Created Equal." What this means is that each child must receive equal monetary amounts of happiness, right down to the last dime.

Parents tell themselves that if they have spent X number of dollars on one son, they must spend the same amount on each of the remaining children or the kids will sleep on a psychiatrist's couch for the rest of their lives.It isn't written anywhere in the manuals of child rearing. It's just something parents feel. I think it goes back to the early years when children are into "crass and greed." Children are either unique or they have computer implants. All I know is ours were capable of remembering the exact hour when a sibling got his first watch, her first bicycle, his first alligator on the pocket of a sport shirt or her pierced ears.

If I mentioned that one was a little young for a stereo, his mouth would print out that at 3 p.m. on April 27, 1964, on the occasion of his ninth birthday, his brother had received his first stereo, model No. 16977 with two wall speakers. He included the price.

It's something else parents are required to keep track of. We have to remember who went to camp, who got a major birthday party, who had a night coming at Grandma's, and who was in line for mumps so he could get ice cream in bed.

But it is Christmas that really sends us scurrying for the calculator. One year I remember trying to "even up the score" by buying a stocking stuffer. The stocking stuffer came to $5 more than I had spent on the other two, so I went out and bought two small gifts to balance it out. That left the first one lacking, so I made another trip but was still $3 off, so I kept going out. It was like trying to fill a measuring cup without my glasses.

Ironically, my kids don't even care anymore. One of them told me the other day that it's not important how much a gift costs but that it was chosen just for him. (This from the one who once divided the lone cherry in the fruit cocktail using a ruler.)

Another one said that you don't measure love just at Christmas but for all the things throughout the year. (This from the kid who kept a card file of how many licks from an ice cream cone he gave his brother.)

The last one said, "You and Dad have always been fair."

Is it too late to go shopping?