We are packing for a road trip.
Alexander has taken it upon himself to pack some car snacks.
He comes up to me after putting snacks in everyone’s bag. “Mommy, there are two extras.”
I am counting out diapers into the diaper bag. I do not think before answering.
“You can just put that in your bag, since you packed the snacks.” (Fair enough, I guess?)
“I think Isaac should have it.” he says. “He is bigger and eats more.”
“Does that seem fair?” I ask. It is my go-to question. We discuss fairness often, I am the one who brings it up. He understands that I am asking him if he is considering himself as well as his brother.
He smiles. He says yes. I ask him if he wants to check with Keenie and see if she thinks it is fair, too. She is enthusiastic and on board. “Isaac eats more!” She agrees.
I see a lot of posts about how to stop the whining about fairness.
My kids bring up fairness with me and my partner maybe a few times a year at most.
I answer it with a question. “What do you feel would be fair to everyone?”
Fairness isn’t making a single person happy. That is “I would like” and “can I please?” Fairness is a discussion where everyone’s needs are weighed and considered. Fair is not necessarily equal. It would not be fair for Keenie and I to have the exact same amount of food on our plates. She eats like a bird, I eat like a bulldozer. She needs less food. I need more. It would not be fair for me to insist that I get to use the toilet because I got there first, if one of my children is doing the potty dance.
Life? Life is not fair. Life is a combination of many things. But family is not a “too bad,so sad, sucks to be you” Thing unless we choose to treat it that way.
If I am asking one of my children to accept something unfair, I tell them. I ask them. I say “I know that what I am asking is not fair to you. I am asking you if you can please help me by doing XYZ this once. Next time I promise we will do QRS instead. Is that okay?” And I thank them genuinely.
I make space for myself, as well. I calmly say “I need to be fair to myself, too. And when things are unfair to me, I start the same discussion.
It takes different forms, but the gist of it is that “I do more because I am older and faster and you are my children and I want to make sure you have all the space you need to play.
Right now I am trying to get ready so we can all go. I need your help. It is not fair to ask me to do every single thing that needs to be done before we can leave. What can you help with?”
This is not a thing I am perfect with. It is an evolving mindset. I have had no examples for this. I have plucked it out of the moments when I have felt like every bit of me wanted to shriek “THIS IS NOT FAIR!!!!”
What gets me to that point?
What has brought my child there?
How can I help my child feel respected?
Giving them whatever they want is not respect.
Neither is refusing on principle.
It needs to be a conversation.
And I need to be the calm one.
Otherwise what my child is yelling is true.
It isn’t fair.