The Parent Trip: It's not fair

By Shelby Cain


It’s not fair.  Something I’ve been hearing a lot lately.

Five’s cake has more icing than mine.  Three’s hair is curlier than mine.  My friend Mary’s name starts with a letter that comes sooner in the alphabet.  It’s not fair.

For a while, I tried to take a gentle approach. Here, I’ll get you more icing.  Let me tell you all the reasons straight hair is great.  But then I got tired.  And that’s when I heard my mom’s voice come right out of my mouth.  You’re right, Honey.  It isn’t fair.  Life’s not fair.  Get used to it.

One of those moments that stops you in your tracks, because when your parents said it to you it annoyed the heck out of you, and you vowed to never say it to your own kids.  But now I’m playing the role of the parent, and it seems completely necessary to instill this little gem of wisdom to my kids.  Early.  Don’t expect fairness guys.  You’ll only be disappointed.  A little pessimistic perhaps?

I thought about it as I lay in bed feeling guilty the other night, something I find myself doing often since becoming a parent.  So I decided to try a different approach.  Optimism.  Maybe life can be fair!

And then… a test.  Both of my girls flew out of preschool the other day carrying plastic cups filled with dirt, water, and a precious planted seed.  A future beanstalk.

They could hardly wait to get it home, put it on the windowsill, and watch it grow right before their eyes.  They figured by the afternoon they’d be able to climb it into the sky and collect their golden egg.

Not quite.  Several days passed with me being asked about every 15 minutes when the beanstalks were going to grow.  Are we there yet?  No.

Then…disaster.  Three’s stalk started to grow.  Five’s didn’t.  It’s not fair!

Okay, here we go.  Optimism!  We’ll fix it!  Mommy will fix it.  I became a botanist overnight.  I spent hours on Google, studying the life cycle of the common beanstalk and watching Youtube videos on the best growing conditions.  I tried everything. I simulated rainfall and got a special fertilizer and even gave the little guy a pep talk.

That seed would not sprout.  Five whimpered by my side through the whole ordeal.  We checked it hourly for the smallest signs of life.  Nothing.  Finally, I found myself right back where I started from.  Listen Five.  It isn’t fair.  Life isn’t fair.  Sometimes you just get a dud.  Don’t waste your time on it.  Move on.

I, too, was given these words of advice.  And you know what?  I’m sure they’ll serve her well.  Optimism’s overrated.


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