The refrain of “NOT FAIR” can be heard pretty much every hour on the hour in our household, either by Lexi or by her sister, and Maddie only does it because she hears it a lot from the older one. I’ve tried explaining to Lexi how the things she feels aren’t fair don’t really fit into the category she tries to force them into, how they’re really just privileges she can’t have for a certain period of time, not rights.
We were on vacation for the past few days, and as you can guess, several of the rules are a bit relaxed, like the screen time limit, and the snack food manifesto. I’ve learned, though, that if you give an inch they expect you to give a yard. And if you don’t then it’s… NOT FAIR.
So, I’ve taken some quality time lately to explain, and explain again, exactly what constitutes being fair in life, and Lexi has taken a lot of time out of her busy schedule to break down for me what being fair means to a 10-year old.
Me: It’s time to do something with your sister.
Lexi: I don’t want to.
Me: I didn’t ask if you wanted to.
Lexi: NOT FAIR.
Me: What’s not fair?
Lexi: That you’re making me do something with Maddie.
Me: Seriously? You so much don’t want to do something with your sister that you’re going to pull out the “not fair” card?
Lexi: What is the “not fair” card?
Me: You know how when we play Monopoly and you have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card?
Me: Well, it’s the same type of thing. It’s like playing with your sister is being in jail to you. Do you know that there are tons of people who would trade with you in a heartbeat, who want a sister but who don’t have one?
Lexi: I didn’t say playing with Maddie was jail! I just said I didn’t want to play with her RIGHT NOW.
Me: So you’d rather lie on the couch and stare at your hand than play with your sister?
Lexi: [laughing] I’m not staring at my hand!
Me: Could’ve fooled me.
Later on that day…
Me: It’s time to help me with the laundry.
Lexi: NOT FAIR.
Me: Wait. Hold up one second. Do you wear clothes?
Lexi: [sighing] Yeah.
Me: Do you want to wear dirty clothes all the time?
Lexi: Uh, no.
Me: Then, uh, who do you think washes the clothes?
Lexi: You do.
Me: Good. We’re getting somewhere. So I do my part to help you wear nice, clean clothes. And you need to do your part too.
Lexi: Why? I’m a kid. It’s NOT FAIR.
Me: You’re 10-years old. I know of at least a few 10-year olds who wash and dry their own clothes. And guess what? They also put them away. I’m asking you to do only one of those tasks.
Lexi: Oh daaaaad. But I hate putting my clothes away.
Me: Guess what? Washing, drying, and folding your clothes is no picnic either. But do you hear me complaining?
Lexi: Noooooo, but you’re an adult. It’s your job.
Me: Um, my job? My job is to make sure you’re taken care of, not to put away your clothes. It wouldn’t be… what’s the word? … oh yeah, FAIR, for me to rob you of the chance to do a job I know you’re very capable of performing.
And then, this morning…
Me: What do you mean when you say something’s not fair?
Lexi: I don’t know. It’s just not fair.
Me: Like what though? You use the phrase enough. You have to know what you mean by it.
Lexi: Well, it’s like, when I don’t get to do what I want.
Me: So in order for things to be fair then you always need to get your way?
Lexi: I guess so.
Me: Then I guess I’ll just have to get used to hearing it for a long time then, and you’ll have to get used to things not being “fair.”
Lexi: How come?
Me: Well, let me put it this way… What’s the most important thing in life?
Lexi: To have fun.
Me: No, it’s to be safe.
Lexi: But being safe is boring! I want to have fun.
Me: Life is about being responsible, so when you do have the fun it’s safe and you know everything else has been taken care of first.
Lexi: But I just want to have fun!
Me: See, Lexi, for you to be able to have all that fun someone has to be responsible, to make sure that you’re safe, to make sure that you can be responsible too someday. And sometimes in order to make sure of all those other things we can’t allow you to do what you want to do when you want to do it.
Lexi: But that’s NOT FAIR.
Me: From your perspective, yes, that’s not fair. But if you were the parent you would understand. I used to tell my mom the exact same thing, and now I tell her I get it. Someday I’m sure you’ll get it too, but until then I guess we’re just not going to be “fair” to you.
Lexi: How come you always curl your fingers like bunny ears when you say “fair”?
Me: Those are called air quotes. It means I’m being sarcastic.
Lexi: Um, okay. Can I get back to my show now?
Me: Well, that’s NOT FAIR. I wanted to spend time with you.