Real Talk Parenting: Life is Not Fair...How Will You Handle it?
written by Lindsay McNamara
Here's the thing: I am tired. I am so super tired of trying to live up to this mom-on-a-pedestal image. So I’m done. Which is easier said than accomplished. It's stressful and it’s uncomfortable to break with conformity. Especially when I run up against ideas that challenge everything. Because I am not a mom on a pedestal. I’m human.
I want my kids to be the best humans they can be. I have to teach them that. But I am just not a traditional teacher. There are some important messages I want them to learn to the depths of their bones, and I am doing it differently. Let me share, and I ask you to keep an open mind.
Lesson #1. I want my kids to learn this now. Early. If there were only one lesson I wanted to be sure to impart to my children in this life it would be this: Life is Not Fair!
I have distinct plans for helping them learn this. I do not treat them equally. Intentionally. Almost never. And I don't like them equally. Out loud. Without shame.
What blasphemy is this?! The ancient oracles of parenting must smite me now, yes? All the traditions dictate that I must like all my children equally and give them the same of everything.... pardon my side eye, but I call bullshit.
Hear me out. I love all my children endlessly. ENDLESSLY. But I won't spend my time fixated on tallying out equal portions of food, crayons, affection, money spent, praise, criticism, gifts or anything else. My children are individual people with individual needs, individual wants, and individual personalities.
So, I'm doing it differently in my house. When doling out goldfish crackers, I give each child drastically different amounts. I don't care about their protests. They get what they get. Life isn't fair.
But here's the thing... nothing is absolute. Which brings us to lesson #2: Your character is forged in how you handle the unfairness.
Life isn't fair unless you make it fair. There’s a magic that happens after they get such different amounts of goldfish: my kids willingly balance the numbers amongst themselves. They are always willing to share their own to give the others more. I never asked this of them. They learned it themselves, and they will hold it to heart because of it. This will stay with them forever because it came from their own sense of morality.
Life isn't fair, but sometimes you get what you ask for. I want my children to be their own advocates. They won't sit back and wait for me to come to their rescue. So sometimes, when they ask for more goldfish, they get them. Just because they asked.
Life isn't fair, and sometimes the answer is no. So, sometimes I don't give them more. I say no. And I mean no. It is crucial for them to learn to respect other people's boundaries.
Life isn't fair, but if you work hard, you can get more. Chores are expected. As a member of the family, you are expected to contribute. That's not to say I won't recognize hard work when I see it, especially when it is above the expected and is done unasked.
Life isn't fair, and sometimes hard work doesn't pay off. We all have work to do. Nobody is exempt. It’s vital that our children learn that the doing of the work is for ethical reasons and not for rewards.
And also... I have a favorite. Oh, yes, the parenting blasphemy continues. I said it. And my children know it. They know I have a favorite child. I am not ashamed of that. I love them all equally but I regularly like one above another. It varies daily, and I am not afraid to be honest about it with them. Readers, I know you are choking on your arguments with me already. It goes against everything in your bones. This confession has you painting me with devil horns, some relative of Mommy, Dearest, but...
Nobody is obligated to like you best. Nobody is obligated to like you the same. Ever. Not even me. And that's okay! Everyone is allowed to have a favorite color, meal, friend, sibling, aunt, parent—and moms are allowed to have a favorite child. I love my children equally and endlessly, and I have a favorite child. It changes. They know it. They share the role. They get to learn things about themselves through my eyes. They get to learn things about me. They learn how they fit into a group, how they can be integral to the collective without being the star of the show. Like and love are two different things. Love is unconditional, like is flexible. And giving more to one person does not take anything away from you! Your sense of self-worth can’t ever be reliant on being someone else’s favorite.
Because life isn't fair. And if they can learn that early, from someone who loves them best, then maybe they will be better equipped to be the change the world needs. Perhaps they will learn to get out of their own way, to be secure enough in themselves to give freely. To shape the world with love.