That’s not fair!

She said:     

Life is not fair. I hate to say that to my children, but I am forced too – often.  I hate to say it both because I wish life was fair and because it will make them so disillusioned.  But it’s reality. Here are just a couple of examples we’ve faced lately:  Our son, James, got the last piece of bacon at breakfast one day. “That’s not fair, why does he get it?” said the other kids. “Because he’s a growing kid”, said Thomas. Yes, at nearly 18 and 6’3”, he is growing and growing. Grace got to go to an amazing week-long camp recently. “That’s not fair, why does she get to go,” we heard again. “Because it’s only for 13-year-old girls, which you are not and it’s an amazing opportunity we may never have again,” I said. This goes on and on with things small and large. The magnitude of the thing doesn’t even matter to the kids – all that matters is that they didn’t get it and someone else did (even if they didn’t really want it themselves). We, as parents, are faced with this again and again because that’s just how life happens. Situations and opportunities (and bacon) present themselves to different people at different times. They don’t always come along like an all-inclusive blanket enveloping the whole group.

We could become the kind of parents who work very hard to make sure everything is fair for everyone – equal portions, equal opportunities, equal belongings.  But that would be unrealistic and would surely send us to the funny farm. To me, all we can do is try to keep an overall sense of equality amongst our kids, making sure no one is consistently overlooked as good things present themselves in life.  That way, we can point out, “Remember when you got to go to that pool party? And remember when you got to have a sleepover?”  Perhaps more importantly, the best I can do is say “No, life isn’t always fair and balanced but wonderful things do happen to all of us so make sure you really, really appreciate them when they do.”

He said:

This is going to be one of those rare times where my view on things is in full agreement with Courtney.  I agree! But I will also say that parents must strive to track their allocations of resources. Although this takes some doing, and can be time consuming, it avoids inadvertent inequities among offspring. Here’s what I mean… one of our children eagerly accepts new opportunities. Skiing? Sure! Dance lessons? Sure! Team sports, camps, trips? Sure, sure, sure! We also have a child who is quite the opposite and frequently answers “No way!”.  The tendency is to, over time, spend more resources on the “Sure” kid and skimp on the “No way!” kid. This came up recently when our “No way” kid was very interested in a high tech and high priced weeklong camp. Courtney and I debated at length… and in the end we said “no. ” It was too pricey. But when I think of how – over the years- we have spent very little on “extras” like this camp for this child, I regret that decision a bit. It made me realize that we need to keep close tabs on this with all our kiddos, and plan better to ensure they are all treated as fairly as humanly possible in our family.

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