The Fairness Balance

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Our six-year-old granddaughter, Sweet Caroline, came running into the kitchen loudly proclaiming, “It’s not fair!”

If you have children, then you’ve probably heard that statement at least once a day. And if you’re the parent of a teenager, then “it” is really not fair. Doesn’t matter what “it” is. What matters is that “it” is unfair.

Around our house, with two granddaughters ages six and seven and one seventeen-year-old, the unfairness of “it” seems to be boundless. I don’t have the heart to tell them that as they grow older, the unfairness of “it” also grows.

Back on Flamingo Street, we five kids believed there were a lot of things that were not fair. Our parents’ response to each complaint was, “Life’s not fair.” Then they’d help us with our issue.

The first time Bully Brad beat me up for no reason, I ran inside our house crying, telling my parents it wasn’t fair. That day, and for many days after, Dad taught me boxing and how to defend myself. In the seven years we lived on Flamingo, I never defeated Bully Brad, but at least I was able to get away without being pummeled too badly.

One Saturday morning, Mom found me at the end of our driveway, I was lying down exhausted. Only six years old, I couldn’t pedal my bike fast enough to keep up with my older brothers. It just wasn’t fair. She convinced Dad that I needed a new faster bike. My brothers said it wasn’t fair I got one and they didn’t. Dad replied, “Life’s not fair. Get used to it.”

The list of things that weren’t fair for us kids could fill volumes. “She got a new toy and we didn’t.” “He got new clothes and we didn’t.” “I can’t wear what I want!” “They stay out late.” “Why can’t I have long hair?” And my favorite, “He gets to. Why can’t I?” which always prompted my parents’ classic response, “If little Johnny jumped off the Empire State Building, would you?” I always thought it was a silly response ‘cause no kid on Flamingo was named Johnny.

The list of what’s not fair in a kid’s life is only surpassed by the list of things not fair in adults’ lives, but we each have a choice to focus on the negative “not fair” things in our lives or to look at the many things that we have that are positive.

As kids growing up back on Flamingo, our parents helped us see the positive things in life. With both my parents gone, it has been The Wife who has shown me how to shine a positive light to chase away the negative things in my life. After twenty years of marriage, it never ceases to amaze me how insightful she is — and how simple some of her solutions are, which brings us right back to Sweet Caroline, running and crying into our kitchen.

Kneeling down on one knee (which is no easy feat nowadays), I gave her a hug, wiped away a few tears, and asked what was so unfair. Through whimpers, Sweet Caroline told me what event had just made her entire world come crumbling down, “Her slice of cake is bigger than mine.”

The Wife was passing through the kitchen and witnessed what had just unfolded and the additional argument my solution had started: I took a little away from the larger slice to make them equal. This only made things worse — not one but two granddaughters were crying. The Wife finally said, “Just give her a bigger slice of cake.” And with that, the fairness balance was once again achieved in our house.

So, when life seems unfair and you get upset or depressed, especially in the next few weeks, the solution is simple. Don’t run around yelling and crying … just give yourself a bigger slice of cake. 

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]