Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
"That's not fair."
I can't tell you what joy this phrase brings to my life. Because I hear it. Often. From my kids.
When they have to come in for dinner. When they can't have a friend sleep over. When they have to stop their game to finish homework. When they have to make their bed (again) because it didn't work the first time with the kicked-off sheet lying on the floor. When they don't get their way. Then, life is not fair.
I agree with them. They are right.
The problem (as they see it) is I am the unjust authority figure, sort of like an unfair fairy, but without the tutu (I sold mine at a rummage sale years ago). My kids understand that life, in and of itself, may not always be fair. But to them, I am the magnifying factor when it comes to lack of liberty and unjustness for all. As their mother, I am responsible for the overall unfairness of things.
There are times when I have to make tough decisions and then there are times when I just say no because I am the parent and I can.
Then again, there are lots of other factors well beyond the spectrum of little old me working to make life unfair. Floods. Food poisoning. Asthma. Allergies. Earthquakes. Earning a D-minus on the English quiz. Losing the big game. Gaining a little extra weight.
None of this seems fair. Not in the least. If life were fair, we'd all be on top of the proverbial heap with a full stomach, clear complexion and every hair in place (no baldness would exist in this fair world). We'd be employed at a job that didn't feel like work. We'd have too many friends, a perfect marriage and kids who never questioned our authority. We wouldn't worry about the weather, mortgage payments, osteoporosis or our countless vulnerabilities. If life were fair we'd all have what we needed and then some. Without any worries.
Or maybe not. Maybe we'd all be hungry and wanting and lonely. Maybe "fair" would mean equal, but at the same time, not so outstanding. Maybe fair wouldn't feel like a corndog on a stick, but just a bare stick, one as empty as our stomachs.
I can hear my kids grumbling already. Life isn't fair. No, it's not.
I don't relish the thought of anyone suffering. Ever. That is the kind of unfairness I would do without, if I could.
But a little everyday unfairness when it comes to whose bowl holds the bigger scoop of ice cream, who gets to ride shotgun or who went first the last time, those kinds of unfairness I can deal with. If life is unfair every time we don't get what we want, then life is most certainly unfair. To that, I say thank goodness.
If life were fair, there'd be no opportunity to choose your perspective on the subject. You'd size yourself up based on everyone else, because everyone would be the same as you. How boring, not to mention limiting. There'd be no reason to work for something better than fair, because fair would be all there was.
An unfair world provides possibilities for working harder and striving above and beyond. To desire something beyond fair, you first must experience unfair and decide you possess the ability to overcome it.
When my kids tell me they think I'm not fair or life's not fair, I know they are right. And I hope someday they'll understand why this is actually a good thing.
Jill Pertler, award-winning syndicated columnist and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication" is collecting fans on Facebook on her Slices of Life page. E-mail her at
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