Today my heart was so sad as I watched one of my boys head off to a birthday party while the other was so very disappointed that he wasn't also attending. It is a mutual friend, but there is also a big age gap. It was nothing personal that Zachary wasn't invited, but it still killed my heart to see the look on his face that was a reflection of the pain in his sweet little heart.
By nature I am someone who values fairness. By that I mean I value consistency, harmony, etc. (If you have done the Gallup's StrengthsFinder assessment those are in my top 5.) So I found myself in a predicament. I know some parents who always make it 'fair'. So they may have planned a play date during the same time for the other child, not allowed one to go to the party without the other, or made it up to the one not going in some form of a present, food date, etc. I didn't see the not going as an option for us, as it's one of Joshua's closest friends. But I can say that I found myself processing if Zac and I could go and get an ice cream together or I could get him a fun little toy at the dollar store. And then I had to stop myself.
I had to think about the bigger lesson of life.
And that is?
Life IS NOT FAIR. Things will not always be equal.
I was tempted to try and cover up the feelings he was feeling with 'stuff'. Be it food or shopping. But how does that teach him to deal with these emotions when they come up again in the future? I would say that it doesn't. Instead, we had a chat about how he was feeling. He talked, and I listened. And then we went on about our day. Is this the only and/or right thing? Who knows, but I do believe it was better than me trying to mask that this afternoon things weren't fair. (And let me also say that I think every situation is different- many times I do say no to Joshua doing something with a friend for the sake of what the family is doing being a priority or I do plan a date for both of them at the same time with separate friends.)
Later I began to think about this on a deeper level. Wondering what it is about our culture, or maybe just my personality that always wants things to be fair. Why are we afraid to let our kids feel pain or realize that there are struggles we will face in life? It's not as if they can't feel it already, or that they don't see it.
Even as adults we wonder these things. Feelings of comparison leading us to say it's not fair, or we judge others because we don't know the struggles they have had to overcome to get to where they are. From our view it just looks like things aren't fair. They get to go to the party while we just get to stay at home. But everyone has paid their own dues when it comes to how life looks- fair or not fair.
And my final thought, seeing as Christmas is a week away. One more reason that I can't fathom the humility that Jesus had. He was a king and yet nothing about his lifestyle would have looked 'fair' in comparison to other kings of his day. Yet, never once do we find Him complaining that things aren't fair. I think as I get older, and meet more people, I find that usually my saying things aren't fair is out of some sort of selfish, 'What about me' jargon going on in my head. And other times it has nothing to do with my selfishness but it's when real life issues outside my control throw off the plans or dreams I have and I have to regroup and start again with what I have right in front of me. In those moments it's choosing to move forward, not masking the pain as I did not want to teach Zachary to do, but in walking through the pain and into a new level of myself that I begin to grow.
I know this isn't a solved delemma and I will continue to face it as my boys get older. Why one gets to do this and the other doesn't, why one is better at one sport than the other, why one seems to have more friends than the other, the list can go on and on. But I can take time to help them learn to identify their emotions, learn to channel that into empathy, and hope that they will see the world through a different lens that goes beyond the feelings of, 'it's not fair'.