We have two family friends between 7-15, A and B. I (early 20's) have known since they were babies, when I was just a child myself. I wouldn't say we've 'grown up together' due to the age gap, but they're probably the closest thing I have to siblings. I've been tutoring the older kid for a while now too.
Kids C and D's family became closer to our family (and the others in our circle) about 4 years ago. So I was an adult (barely) when I met the kids.
Occasionally, I have taken the four kids out. Sometimes all together in a bigger group of other kids and other young adults, sometimes just the four of them, sometimes A and B to one thing and C and D to another. Its partly a gift of free time to their parents, but I guess I enjoy being able to treat the kids too.
I have now heard that kid C (13 y/o) has been complaining that I'm favouring kids A and B. This is because last time a bunch of kids and young adults went to the cinema (including A B C and D), I paid for A+B's meal and tickets.
This is true, because if I take A+B to the cinema, I always do pay for them. On this occasion, aware that we were in a bigger group, I didn't do it in a flashy way, or draw attention to it. There were a dozen of us including other kids and I certainly couldn't afford to pay for everyone. C had clearly been watching me. As it happens, I recall that time I did end up paying towards C and D's meal, because they hadn't brought enough money. I also picked the kids up and dropped them home.
Since then, a friend and I have taken A+B to the cinema, just the four of us, and I believe word has got back to C.
What's frustrating to me is that in between those two cinema occasions I took C and D out just themselves on a highly expensive day out. It was a total one off, an experience they loved, and it cost a lot of money. Think a heap of cinema tickets. I did it totally off my own back, my idea, my gift to them.
So over the last few months, because of that expensive day out, I have actually spent more money on C and D than A and B. Because I wasn't counting, it wasn't a competition. In addition, C's mum asked me to tutor her just a month or so ago and I have done, so because of this additional time spent together I had been thinking about paying for their cinema tickets etc next time there's a big group going out, though I hadn't told them.
My feeling now is that I don't want to pay for a single thing more for C. But she is a child still and I think she's jealous of the bond I have with A and B because I watched them grow up and our families spend more time together. I don't want to be petty since I'm the adult here. The most important thing for me is that I don't help create a monster in an ungrateful child, but equally, I don't want to be pushing buttons on someone's insecurities.
How can I respond to this complaint by C in a productive way to reduce her jealousy and help prevent something similar from happening in the future?