The Girl was mad at me (I know, what’s new). Apparently, her BROTHER knew the password to my husband’s computer but she did not and it wasn’t FAIR! This didn’t have anything to do with who got to be on the computer, or who got to be on first, or longer, or anything. It was simply that the Boy was getting something that she wasn’t getting. “Everything has to be EVEN or it isn’t FAIR.”
My stepmother spends an inordinate amount of time trying to be fair AND even with my kids–way more time than I do. She tries to spend the same amount of money on them at holidays and birthdays. When they do sleepovers, it has to be for the same length of time and they need to do (to some extent) the same things. She makes sure things are very even. I think that it is way too much work and if they can’t be grateful for what they get, then well, they shouldn’t get it.
I try to focus more on the FAIR. I actually think that ‘fair’ is, well, more ‘fair.’ Even is a little too communistic for me. My kids are very, VERY (did I mention VERY) different people. If everything was even I think that both of them would be very unhappy. If the Girl got the same amount of clothes that the Boy got–well, the world might very well stop rotating. If she ONLY had 5 pairs of shorts? A dozen underpants that were all white–GROSS!!! If I decided to be EVEN with them, she very likely won’t get to attend another birthday party or sleepover and she’ll still be way ahead of her brother. Yet if I gave her this option, she’d say it wasn’t ‘fair.’ But it would be ‘even.’
And the Boy would probably call DHS to report cruel and unusual punishment if he could only have the same number of Legos, Pokemon, and books that his sister had.
The Girl is extremely worried that the Baby gets more attention than she does and recently said that the Baby had it so much better than she did and that it wasn’t “fair.” So I offered her the fairness of going to bed at 7pm and taking a two-hour nap in the middle of the afternoon. I reminded her that the Baby didn’t get to play on the computer and only got 30 minutes of TV (yeah, I know, it will ruin her brain, but I need to make dinner, use the bathroom without being followed, and occasionally shower without having to try to entertain a baby who is licking the shower door. Trust me, that is likely WAY more damaging than 30 minutes of Dora the Explorer).
I think a lot of us spend too much time worrying that our lives aren’t ‘fair’ or ‘even’–the whole ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ My husband and I got really lucky–I’ll confess–we’ve been TERRIBLE about properly saving for our children’s college fund. We’ve tried to be diligent about saving for our retirement (right on schedule for retiring when we are 85).
So after listening to our friends be so disciplined about putting $$ away for their kids’ education and feeling REALLY guilty about not keeping up, the banking and investment markets crashed and well, now everyone is keeping up with us. We had nothing and they have nothing. So that’s nice and even, but not really all that fair.
I think that it is vital to our community, our family, and to ourselves, that we always come to each other from a position of fairness–not evenness. Evenness implies that everyone has the same needs and wants and can have those needs and wants filled exactly the same way as their neighbor. Fairness implies that everyone is unique–with different wants and needs and that those wants and needs must be met differently than their neighbor. We take our vacations in the winter–skiing as much as possible. Most of our neighbors tend to vacation in the summer–at the shore. Okay, actually most of our neighbors do both, but trying to keep up with them would require Scott to sell one of his livers. How many livers does one person need anyway?
We have decided to forgo large salaries in exchange for actually being with our kids. We find we can do much more damage as one big unit than as individuals–the old “the sum is greater than the parts” axiom. We’ve decided that dinners together–at home (and usually out of a blue box)– are more important than the number of zeros in our checking account (unless there is JUST a zero in the checking account).
Does that mean I don’t worry about fairness? Hey, I’m human. I’ve seen my neighbor’s FABULOUS kitchen and have secretly whined that it isn’t fair. I’ve watched my neighbor load up his boat AGAIN and have wished for a vacation. But life is about choices.
I don’t know how to teach the Girl about things being ‘fair’ I think it’s something I have to be certain that it’s a lesson I’ve first learned myself. The one thing I have decided to do, is to have the kids participate in the Inter-Faith Housing Alliance.
Inter-Faith, located in Ambler, PA, provides ” temporary shelter, transitional housing, homelessness prevention, comprehensive support services and assistance in locating appropriate housing opportunities, thus enabling families to remain in or return to independent living.”
During the month of August, a family or two will be living in our church while participating in the program. Members of our church will bring dinners to the church, stay overnight with the families, and offer child care to the kids while the parents meet with Inter-Faith people. I’ve volunteered my kids and me to sleep over and spend some time with families. I want the kids–who fight about who gets to watch TV first–to see kids who don’t have TVs. I want them to eat a meal with kids who are glad to just be getting a meal instead of whining that “tomatoes are the grossest thing ever.” I want them to sleep on an air mattress in a strange place and realize that these kids do it every day of their lives. And maybe, just maybe, the kids won’t worry so much about life being ‘even’ and ‘fair.’ Maybe, just maybe, they will realize how good they have it.
And you know what, maybe I will too.