It's not fair!
Anyone who has more than one child will be familiar with that deep desire to try to show love equally to your children. As human beings, it is natural to prefer people who are more like us and make us happy. At some point, we will have to realise that our children have their own personalities, which may sometimes be different from ours. We can try to raise them to be like us, or even ‘better’ than us, but there will be aspects of their personality that will have nothing to do with how we have trained them. The difficult job of a parent is learning how to work with those differences to achieve the same result of raising strong, confident, happy and responsible adults. This often involves treating them as individuals, not one-size-fits-all. We might hear children say ‘It is not fair’ when we give something to or do something for their sibling. As a parent, I have tried to respond positively to such remarks, but a recent parenting talk I heard made me realise that my personal understanding of fairness can affect my parenting and how I feel about these comments.
Is it fair to give apples to my son and daughter, if I know that my daughter prefers oranges, and both are fruits? Is it fair to send them both to piano lessons if I know that my son is more interested in drums? Sometimes doing the right thing means that people will get treated differently, for their own good. In public health, the concept of equity versus equality shows how it is better to provide services where they are most needed, rather than offering the same things to everyone. It will widen inequalities if the same amount of money is allocated for primary school education to areas where children make up 10% and 50% of the population. This is also relevant for the amount of attention we are able to give to our children at different stages of their lives, in these busy times. Realising that time and emotional energy is limited will help us to feel less guilty when we prioritise the needs of each child in relation to the others, so that the ones that need us more are able to get that time and attention when it is needed the most. Taking some time to explain our reasoning to the other child or children, who feel that ‘it is not fair’ will help them to understand that we are all working together as a family to help whoever needs it the most, and it might be their turn tomorrow.
I have found this liberating also for my finances. I do not have to buy a useless expensive gadget for my son today to make up for the fact that I just spent a lot of money buying something very useful that my daughter needed. Supporting my children to reach their highest potential also involves understanding and building on their talents. We cannot question why some are naturally more intelligent or talented than others, but we can support children to improve on their weaknesses and/or build on their strengths. A more ‘academic’ child might need less help with homework everyday but more money for tuition to push them further academically, while a ‘less academic’ child might need more help with school work and probably more money/time for other interests. It is important to understand each child, to be able to bring out the best in them through training and encouragement.
I sometimes think about how some people work so hard in poor countries with seemingly nothing to show for it, while others seem to have an easy life that just keeps getting better everyday. In reality, everyone has their own challenges, even if it seems like a luxurious life to someone else. The Good Book says that, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected”. I believe this relates to every aspect of life and our talents, not just money. It all makes me glad that I am not God, because sometimes, what appears to be unfair or difficult can turn out to be the best thing for that person in the long term. There is so much divine planning that goes into maintaining a balance in the big picture, so I just choose to do what is right with what I have, because fairness will never be the same for everyone. It is natural to feel that the option that suits you best and makes you look good is the fairest. When time and money is limited, and I cannot do all I want to do for my children/family/friends, I remind myself that it will all balance out if I keep doing my best and do what I believe is right everyday. We all want to see justice prevail in our world, but it is more important to stop getting stressed out looking for ‘fairness’ and choose to have a heart of love, contentment, gratitude and service.