I hate the phrase "That's not fair." I hear that more from my six year old son than almost any other phrase from his mouth. Growing up with the Brady bunch, if you had told me I couldn't avoid causing middle child syndrome I would have said "Oh no, there will be no middle child issues in my home. I will love all my children equally and fairly to insure Shalom Bayit" (a peaceful home). Yeah that worked like floating a lead balloon across the English Channel.
Last night my my four year old daughter ("I'm almost five" she will tell anyone who will listen) was sick to her stomach and vomiting every two hours starting at about 9:30pm. Clearly not a candidate for preschool today (maybe they have a sick school where all the slightly sick kids get sent so they can commiserate and be sick together? No? My next business venture!).
Sammy, my six year old, was outraged. "It's not fair that she gets to stay home from school and watch more screen than me. I don't want to go to school either!" I tried to reason with him, I tried to remind him that he has afternoon kindergarten and gets morning screen when two of his other siblings have to go to school. I tried to remind him that he owed me his life since he had puked on my floors not once but twice in a five minute period and lived to see another day. He barely tolerated my reasoning and only looked me seriously in the eye when I threatened to make everything fair and take away all his morning screen time for eternity.
This rational conversation took place only after I had come out of the shower to a screaming, blanket over the head six year old son wailing about the imbalance in the world caused by his sister's illness. There was no rationalizing with him. He didn't want to get dressed, didn't want to tolerate his ill sister's presence and didn't want to contemplate the hours of television she would be allowed to watch the three hours he would be at school. I began getting dressed while reminding him:
"Sammy you are wasting all of your morning screen time throwing this tantrum."
"I don't care. It's not fair. How come she gets to stay home."
"She threw up all night and is sick."
"So? It's not fair."
"Would you rather be throwing up all night?"
"No. But it still isn't fair"
And really this has been going on for at least two years. He looks upward to his older brother or down to his younger sister (the baby hasn't suffered his wrath yet) and sees a world out to rob him of some sense of fairness.
"How come he got a game on his ipod?"
"How come she gets a playdate?"
"How come he gets to stay up later?"
From the first moment the word "Fair" ever crossed Sammy's lips it hit my ears like the loudest "F" bomb a small child could throw. "OMG!" I screamed in my head. At times I find myself yelling back "There is no "fair!" Life isn't fair!" But I don't want to create this all to true image in his head. At the same time I want him to grow up enough to see all the incredible things he does have in his life so that he can stop screaming about inequalities that only exist in his head. He has parents that love spending time with him and a loving Uncle he adores as his primary caregiver. He has playdates some mornings while his siblings are tucked away at school. He has special mornings practically all to himself where he gets morning screen time no one else gets and his Uncle and the baby all to himself. I want him to see his cup as not only half full, but overflowing with individual attention he hasn't had since his younger sister was born.
This is the first time in five years that he has had his adults to himself (minus the baby who really takes up a minimal amount of time and space considering he still takes a morning nap).
And yet my wife will constantly remind me "He is six. This too shall pass."
"He may not see seven." I grumble, or "Not soon enough" might also be heard rumbling past my lips.
In a world where we as parents can easily provide so much for our children without breaking a sweat it is hard to comprehend that in their small minds it will never be enough. There are days I would like to strip the house bare of any toys, books or electronic devices and force my children to earn each amazing trinket of fun and creativity they own one by one. Of course this isn't realistic, where would I keep everything hidden (in the basement of course - my own hoarder's paradise!!!)? Perhaps they should live their lives with only pens, crayons, pencils and an endless supply of paper. Then they can draw all the horrible things I have done to them to make them stop and think about how lucky they are to live in a home where people actually love them unconditionally. I'll show you FAIR!