Several days ago, I was doing the dishes in the middle of the afternoon. My always-hungry five year old wanted a snack and she asked for the last of the homemade cinnamon chip scones. She ate that scone as fast as she could and I realized I was watching something akin to the Discovery channel. There is an instinct in a child that kicks into gear when their is even a remote possibility that a special treat could be in jeopardy.
That instinct triggers the “inhale” button.
Sure enough, as soon as the last few crumbs were shoved into her packed little mouth, the seven year old rounded the corner, looking for that last scone. At this point, five year old couldn’t swallow for the sheer volume of scone and her eyes watered as she choked down her gag reflex at the dryness in her mouth. Seven year old’s eyes welled up with tears and the infamous phrase which has been echoed throughout centuries from child to parents exploded:
“IT’S NOT FAIR.”
You’re right sweet heart, it’s not.
And that’s ok.
It’s not just ok, this is perfect, because now you have a choice.
You can choose to become angry and annoyed at your sneaky-nearly-choking-crumb-covered little sister, or you can choose, without grumbling or even the tiniest shadow of bitterness, to find something else to eat.
Parents: UNFAIRNESS is the best possible thing that could ever happen to our children.
If they can learn how to handle small instances of injustice at a young age, then they won’t join the entitlement crowd as adults.
I mean really, if I had wanted to be fair, I could have told her that I would drop everything I was doing, rearrange my day and list of chores, in order to make her a new batch of scones because, truly, it wasn’t fair that her little sister got the last one and I want my daughter to be happy and have what she wants, right?
Yeah, when you type it out and read it, it sounds a lot more ridiculous than it feels when you find yourself acquiesing to the demands of a little child, huh?
Sorry sweetite. No scones. Have a carrot.
I love my children and I would give anything to insure that they never experience pain, sorrow, bullying, a job loss, the death of a loved one, or any tragedy that waits for them. But by sheltering them and trying to make life fair for them, I’m doing them a terrible injustice. If I spend all of my energy and resources as a parent to make sure that everything is always equal, and I make sure that they can keep up with the Jones’ kids, then I’m raising little adults who will never understand what it means to work for something.
Now parents, I think we can all operate with the knowledge that we don’t play favorites with our kids. Period. But, you’re not always going to fair with your kids, and that’s ok. Last week, I knew that my seven year old just needed some extra attention and snuggles on the couch at the end of a rough day. She needed that affirmation and we needed to reconnect. Is that fair to the five year old that was already in bed? Her sister got to stay up later than she did.
Friends, teach your children wisely because life will never be fair when you’re convinced that you’re always the victim. If your happiness is dependent on life being fair, that you’ll end up a miserable, bitter adult, waiting for a handout and for your “chance”.
You’re not going to be a perfect parent, and that’s fantastic! There is immeasurable value in teaching your children, in love, to submit to an authority figure that may or may not always be fair.
How fitting that, in our imperfection, God made us both the teacher and the lesson for our children.
You – their parent, guide, and shoulder to cry on – you are the one that must teach them that their character does not depend on their circumstances and their response to authority does not depend on their perceived quota of fairness.
And that, my fellow soldiers in arms, really IS fairness.