It's Not Fair

Stop It!

I already know that!
Why? Why? Why? Why?
I Don't Want To!
Give It!

All things that come out of Hannah's mouth throughout the day (along with the sweet, kind, brilliant, funny things OF COURSE!). To be expected from a 4 year old. Usually these words are accompanied with a stomp of the foot, two arms crossed in front of her chest, two eyes peering scarily out from under her hair and a pout that could win her an Oscar. They come out when she's beyond frustrated, angry, tired or just wants to see how many heads she can get to turn in her direction when out in public. These are also words that I Wish I Could Say. Do you know how much better I'd feel if I could scream I Don't Want To! at the cashier at Bloomingdales when she sticks out her hand for my credit card? How I'm sure the pain would go away quicker if I could yell OOOOWWWWWIEEEE! after banging my shin into the foot of my bed for the 11th time in the day? Or when the woman at the grocery store looks at screaming Luke in the cart and innocently says, "oh, he looks tired", how satisfying it would be to scream, "I already know that!".

Yes, kids get away with yelling whatever they want. And we parents don't. But the one that gets me most? The one that at the age of 37 is not acceptable but oh how I wish it was? "It's. Not. Fair."

It's Not Fair. It's relatively new in Hannah's vernacular. And she now whips it out of her holster regularly. As soon as I think my words have resonated with her to get her to understand why she can't do/have/say something. "It's not fair" comes out, usually with a typhoon of tears. And it usually renders me stumped. Because usually, I can understand why to her little, young brain, it really isn't fair. This saying seems to enter the preschooler/mommy dialogue at the same time as many rules, limits, and changes come about. Earlier, things just "were". Hannah accepted them as how the world works. She believed "mommy says so", and even if it upset her... she moved on. She doesn't move on quite so easily anymore. She needs to understand why it is that her little brother can carry his blankie around and I limit the time she can spend with her raggedy old elephant. It's. Not. Fair. She berates me with questions as to why it is that she has a bedtime and can't stay up All Night or at least until Mommy goes to bed. It's. Not. Fair. It doesn't make sense to her that her friend at school (whose mom and dad work full time) can have playdates at dinner time and she can't. It's. Not. Fair.

The more observant Hannah gets as to people's (mostly my) behavior, the more disappointed she seems to get. She's noticing what people wear (no coat on a frigid day?), what people eat (a candy bar before lunch?), what people say (stupid or shut up) and how people act (sassy/bratty/spoiled) and if it's not on par with what she expects for herself... It's. Not. Fair. She's struggling to understand where the line is drawn between what I allow her to do and have and what I don't. And I'm realizing that this is when my Consistency is so incredibly important. And it's the consistency I have such a hard time with as a mom. Some days I break my own rules and let her do things she knows aren't normally allowed (dinner on the couch! A chocolate after lunch! A junkie toy from the grocery store 25cent vending machine!) because it makes me happy to see her excited. But the next time, when it's not allowed (again)... it's. not. fair. And she's right. It's not.

What is fair? Is "fair" having what other people have? Is "fair" having what you once had? Is "fair" having what you think you deserve? For me, at this stage of my life, "It's not fair" is not something that would ever come out of my mouth. It sounds so juvenile. But do I feel it? Yes, at times I do. But I think as you get older unfairness becomes self-pity which can turn to resentment. And I would hate to admit that I have either of those very often. So I won't. But I guess, a little of each of these can creep in on some darker days and I MAY think I deserve "different". My kids are too young to understand, "mommy had a really long day and would love to sit for one minute, undisturbed, in a quiet room, with no one pestering me or begging me for anything." So I don't say it to them, and when they continue to yell for me, yell at each other, yell for things beyond my reach... I MAY think, "how do I DESERVE this?" It's instead of yelling, "THIS is not fair.". And when Tim gets to take a nice, quiet, long shower and I am unable to because my kids want to be with me at all hours of the day... do I resent it? Yes, maybe a little and I don't even have to say anything, because when Tim sees the look on my face, he knows I'm thinking, "It's not fair."

I'm learning that the less explanation I give to Hannah, the better, when it comes to why things are fair. With most conversations I believe Hannah can grasp "reason". But when she has it in her head that something isn't fair... there's no changing her mind. How can I explain why her friend can get her ears pierced and she can't? Especially when she sees that I have mine pierced? How can a 4 year old comprehend that something makes her look "too old"? That it's just something I feel strongly about. And. That's. It. I know most of the time she's yearning for an explanation that makes sense to her (if I could tell her that 4 year olds' ears would fall off if they're pierced, that would work), but aside from lying to her... there aren't words to make it fair.

I hate the saying, "it is what it is". It's such a cop out to me. It's a conversation ender. It comes across as defensive in adult conversations. But it's what I tell myself many times when I'm feeling resentful or self-pitying. It might actually escape my lips the next time Hannah tells me "it's not fair" if I'm feeling impatient. Or, maybe I'll just scream back, "I Already Know That!". That would be fair.


Sarah said...

First things first: I loathe the saying "It is what it is." I understand it. But I hate it. It is a conversation - and a thought - ender.

And moving on to "It's not fair." Nope. It's not. The whole "Life's not fair" slipping out of your mouth at your kids doesn't always feel great, but it's the truth. A lot of the questions about fairness are ended in this house by simply saying "Different rules in different houses." That combined with going to elementary school and REALLY seeing that everyone is different, has different limitations, allowances, wants and needs.

The thing I struggle most with is the fairness between siblings. Why can Max have a candy bar right now and Jamis can't? Well, because if that candy bar will stop that child from screaming, them let him have it? And Jamis is old enough to listen to me and just shut up! so why would I give him the chocolate and spoil his dinner?

This parenting shit is hard. ALl the way. And no, it's just not always fair for us either. But then you get into the whole topic of parental responsibilites. Equality. Which parent does what. Which parent doesn't do much of anything...

Yup. and entirely different topic. And one that Jen and I spend plenty of time talking about.

Heather of the EO said...

Sarah stole my comment :)

No really, I love what she said. So true.

Especially the parenting really is hard part. It is! It's NOT fair! :)

Ambrosia said...

"And I'm realizing that this is when my Consistency is so incredibly important."

As a parent you often find out the hard way that consistency is one of the most important, and hardest, virtue to obtain.

I am quickly finding out from my two babies that I must be consistent or I will be inundated with demands for cookies at dinner time.

It's Not FAIR!!!

Kristen said...

I just read this and chills ran down my spine. My older son is two and we haven't gotten to the saying "It's not fair" stage, but the idea is there every time he asks for something he's had or done before, but can't have or do at the moment. I love Sarah's phrase, "Different rules in different houses." Such a great encapsulation of the way the world works, about the important lesson of learning context.

TKW said...

Miss M. will be saying this soon, I fear. I guess I'll just have to say back to her, "You're right, it's not fair. Bummer, huh?"

And then, of course, she will hate me.

BigLittleWolf said...

OH some good thoughts here! But Becca - YOU are really onto something here!!

Might we also consider a place that all the ADULTS could go to just scream at the top of their lungs - IT'S NOT FAIR!!!! Really, I think it would do us so much good. And cheaper than therapy. And less destructive than oreo-abuse. Though... if we put together such a place AND served oreos (with or without alcoholic variations of milk and / or seasonal egg nog) - we could charge a little something and I could pay a utility bill or two. (Or hire a human mini-mouse trapper...)

Great post. All too true. (Think about the screaming room for moms. Let's face it, it's mostly moms who need it. And special treatment for moms of teens. Trust me. Hormones + hormones, tra la.)

Carrie @ Who Knew? said...

You know as a behavior modification teacher I see how well consistency works every day. I know it works. And still I am terrified to have to start disciplining Maya and being consistent. I want her to be happy. I want her to love me, to like me. I don't want to me the bad guy (like I often am in my classroom) and yet if I'm not, things will only be worse for her.

Hannah's right: It's not fair!

lemonologie said...

Oh, the things I have to look forward to. I dread my daughter finding out how life isn't fair the hard way. It's such a tough lesson to face, let alone teach. Your thoughts are very insightful!

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