“Not fair! It’s not fair Adam gets a turn to drive, and I don’t!”

This was about who got to drive the Spiderman Power Wheels truck in the driveway. If we fast forward this conversation, I’ll probably be hearing the same thing when they’re older, only about a real car.

Fairness is new for us. Recently, Adam started sharing some of Brandon’s toys and activities. With the sharing has come more comparisons. Mainly from Brandon. He’s started to comment on who has what, how much, how frequently, and has boiled it all down to fairness. But fairness in the eyes of a 5-year-old.

Brandon calls out, “That’s not fair!” or “No fair!” at any number of things. I want to react by turning around and simply saying, “Life isn’t fair.” But I know that’s not the best thing to say if I’m actually going to help him learn. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t think things aren’t fair sometimes, regardless of age?

I don’t want to tell him to stop complaining or that he’s wrong without listening to his feelings. I want Brandon to know I hear his complaints and acknowledge him. On the other hand, his sense of fairness is a moving target. Brandon’s call of “Not fair!” can be related to his belief that Adam has watched 2 more minutes on the big TV than him, or that Adam has had 1 more turn on the slide. Even asking him to go potty before we leave the house leads to complaints of Adam getting to do something he cannot. Anything can set off a call for unfairness. It’s more like walking among a field of live landmines waiting for them to go off.

But how do I explain fair versus equal versus equitable to Brandon? It’s a hard thing to get. Brandon understands that Adam is younger. So no, Adam isn’t ready yet to sit at the table for dinner for 45 minutes straight to eat. But when Brandon was Adam’s age, neither could he. (He doesn’t remember that). So yes, I do expect Brandon to stay at the table longer, but no, I don’t expect Adam to sit as long. Yes, they can both have some dessert relative to how much they eat. And boy is this getting confusing to explain to a 5-year-old.

As much as I want to shield them, I know I need to help my children see the truth. That things aren’t always fair even if we want them to be. Fairness is relative. Things do get hard. And fairness is a challenging concept. But Brandon is a child who has a strong sense of right and wrong already, so this isn’t the easiest thing for him to understand. And I get that. Even adults have trouble with this. (But that’s a whole separate story).

I know I shouldn’t just give Brandon the first answer that comes to mind, but that’s hard. I can’t just tell him the world isn’t fair or he will face challenges, because he won’t really understand. But I want to teach him to speak up when things are not equal or even equitable. I want him to work to change things when they don’t seem right. I want him to make sure life is more fair for himself and others around him. But I don’t want him to be defined by it, so that he can’t move forward until he gets what he believes is fair. Because, in the end, fairness often becomes relative to the person who tries to define it.

That continues to be one of the harder parts of parenting. Finding that balance. I don’t want to make him too jaded. I also don’t want to lie to him. I want to teach him and give tools to grow and thrive. In the end when Brandon told me it wasn’t fair Adam was getting a turn, I turned to him calmly and said, “You’re right,” and then asked, what can we do to make it more fair for everyone?

Flipping things from what Brandon felt he didn’t have to what he thought would make things more fair for everyone seemed to work. We moved on. That was until Adam took a turn with the soccer ball Brandon was using. That started the fairness conversation all over again. I guess this one will be an ongoing learning experience for all of us.

Read More “Making Time” by Jason Springer

 

October 2022
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