If you ever want to know if something is truly fair, ask a child, the younger the better. Young children have an innate ability to distinguish within a nano second if something is fair, more accurately, if it doesn’t benefit them. I never cease to be amazed at how quickly they conclude my decision will screw them. As if the first one to call out “not fair” wins. Children force you to deal with this notion of “fair.” You simply cannot avoid it. So since I am consistently being challenged on my idea of fairness, I decided to do a quick analysis to see if my “hope for the future” had a leg to stand on.
The definition of fair according to whatever dictionary google uses is as follows:
1. free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice: a fair decision; a fair judge.
Ok so this tells me nothing. With the exception of God, no one is perfectly fair. This doesn’t however get me off the hook with my kids. They demand fairness, because they are under the impression, erroneously, that fair always benefits them, i.e. it’s always good for them. But is this true? Is what’s fair always what’s good for them? The reflexive response would be, yes, what’s fair must also, in all cases, be good. That’s reasonable. It’s not true, however, and a simple justice system scenario demonstrates the point. All criminal sentences are the same length of time, regardless of the crime, that’s fair, according to the definition. It’s unbiased by any circumstances of the crime, it’s devoid of dishonest influences, and it can’t be faulted for injustice, everyone is treated the same under the rules of fairness. Now, is that good? No, it’s crap. It’s a terrible ideology for exacting punishment and it doesn’t work for parenting either.
Now, back to my kids. When my son informs me that it isn’t fair that I get to stay up late and he doesn’t, he is correct. It isn’t fair. But it is good that he should go to bed before I do because he is still growing, needs his sleep and, more importantly, mommy can’t relax until everyone is asleep.
This was a very productive parenting exercise. I discovered that I was right, which I already knew, but I needed to find the logic in the reasoning, because my oldest son requires an explanation that has more validity than “because I said so.” An answer I think is very valid, but just frustrates him. Maybe I’ll explore that concept next.