Life’s not fair
Today I’m taking my two home kids swimming with the homeschool group, and my school kid was very disappointed that he didn’t get to go. He begged me to take him out of school for the morning (which I sometimes do on special occasions), but he’ll already be out of school for two half days this week, so I said no. He used every technique of logic and persuasion at a six year old’s disposal, and I still said no. So he resorted to the last defence of every kid I’ve ever met — “It’s not fair.”
Which is true, of course. It isn’t fair. Most things aren’t. So it’s easy to fall into the first response of every parent I’ve ever met — “Yeah, well, life’s not fair.” — but this isn’t really a satisfactory answer even for adults never mind for kids. After all, in so many ways we parents do insist that things be fair, that everyone get their fair share, that people be treated fairly. So what my six-year old can’t understand is why I sometimes make sure things are fair and other times permit them to be unfair.
The trouble is that this question isn’t so easy to answer. I’d have to talk about how our choices have consequences, and that his choice to go to school has different consequences than his brother’s choice to homeschool. I’d have to talk about how each choice always ends up excluding other choices, so we can’t ever have everything at the same time. I’d have to talk about how there are certain things that we don’t get to choose, that we don’t get to change, which is to say, I guess, in a nicer way, that life isn’t always fair.
Of course, none of this goes very far to making a six-year old feel better in the midst of his disappointment, but hopefully it lets him know that life is neither wholly fair or wholly unfair, that each situation is a little different, even if this particular situation is one where he doesn’t get to go swimming.