“It’s not FAIR!” screams my 11-year-old daughter.
This is her go-to statement of outrage and my go-to response is, “I’m sorry sweetie, but life is not always fair.”
The first time I told her this, you would have thought I had told her the sky wasn’t blue, or the Happy Meal didn’t come with a toy – UNBELIEVABLE! The world as she knew it was turned upside down.
Because, as I am sure you are aware if you are a parent, we spend the first few years of our kids lives convincing them that fairness is the goal. That fairness is the answer. The path to peaceful coexistence. Sharing is fair. Being nice is fair. Taking turns is fair.
Fair is an achievable goal.
Then we spend the rest of their lives (and our own) reminding them (and ourselves) that fairness has very little to do with anything.
Is it fair that when it gets cold out my garage door will only open halfway? Not really, but it’s true.
Is it fair that Elizabeth Edwards had a cheating husband with a “love child” and found out she had breast cancer in quick succession? Not at all. There is nothing fair going on there.
Is it fair that my kids get to live in a warm, safe house with a mother loving the stuffing out of them every time they turn around and at the same time there are homeless kids and kids that will never finish high school and kids who live in crime ridden areas and might not see adulthood? No. Not their choice. Not at all fair.
What the heck IS fair?? It often seems like nothing except childhood sharing, and taking turns, and being nice is actually fair.
I looked up the definition of the word fair..and wow…it covers a lot of territory. And some of these even contradict one another.
1.) pleasing to the eye or mind especially because of fresh, charming, or flawless quality
2.) superficially pleasing
3.) clean, legible
4.) not stormy or foul
6.) marked by impartiality and free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism
7.) conforming with the established rules
8.) with merit or importance
9.) open to legitimate pursuit, attack, or ridicule
10.) promising, likely
11.) free of obstacles
12.) not dark
13.) sufficient but not ample
14.) being such to the utmost
So basically when I tell my daughter that her 11-year-old life isn’t fair, I am wrong. Because fair seems to mean pretty much anything and everything.
Ample…and sufficient but not ample…and the utmost.
With merit and importance…and open to attack or ridicule.
So when we like something, we use one definition of fairness. Even if it isn’t fair to anyone else.
And when we don’t like something we say it isn’t fair (especially if we happen to be 11)…because it isn’t pleasing to us.
This brings to mind another “childism” (stuff we tell kids that we don’t actually believe to be true in adult life) – “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”
I gotta say, I am frequently somewhat upset with what I get. And I am torn between accepting that life just isn’t fair and fighting to make it so.
Because even if a lot (most) of what we get and what happens to us isn’t rooted in fairness, wouldn’t it be great if it was?