“It’s Not Fair”

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“Safety” and “fairness” are the preoccupation of the wounded. “Being” and “joy” are the unconscious realities of the free and living.” – Mea McMahon, Observation on Christianity


We are driving home from a Spring Pre-School Concert, the kind where one son stands in the back row singing quietly, hand motions below the neck line. Keepin’ it cool. Our youngest, typically a ham for entertainment refuses to perform when all eyes are in his direction, and so he didn’t. At all.

Somehow in the fuss of class practices, the idea transpired that when the concert concluded, all parents were treating their children to yogurt. I had not received the memo and had other dessert plans. Numero Uno is not a fan of our alternative decision.

And so it goes down like this:

Tanner from the back seat: What does ‘it’s not fair’ mean?

Us: It’s when plans don’t go the way you think they ought to and you’re bummed.


T: Clearing his throat, Well, then I don’t think it’s fair that we didn’t get yogurt.

That’s when the Fresh Prince of Bel Air/ Carlton Dance commences in the front seat. You see, we encourage our oldest every.stinkin’.day to use his words, to express how he feels, to put sentences to what he’s thinking. We can’t help you if we don’t know what’s going through your head, we tell him. You can see the wheels turning, but it’s often met with I don’t know or a shoulder shrug. Each day it’s challenging him to find his voice, to pull words out and string them together boldly and clearly, in front of his peers, and especially with adults.

We might as well tattoo the Joshua 1:9 verse, “Be strong and courageous” on his forehead. Poor kid hears it over and over.

So this I don’t think it’s fair phrase is worthy of embarrassing our boys with horrible car dancing.

Yes, buddy, yes! We are so freakin’ proud of you. Uh, don’t say freakin. You told us how you feel, even though you disagreed with our decision. Bravo, freakin’ bravo. But don’t repeat ‘freakin.’

From there we have a conversation about life and the fact that nope, it’s not fair. We don’t always get yogurt when promised. Some kids may. And that’s okay. We discussed how they will have friends that have super cool toys, video games, and every Pokemon card on the planet {yes, that is the current obsession} How cool that you’ll get to go to their house and play those games with them, and they can come to our house and you can introduce them to fun things like jumping on the trampoline and digging for worms. {I got the eye roll on this one}

I’m okay with life not being fair. Making our children happy is not our parenting role. It’s preparing them for “one day”, for the real world, for the harder times when they don’t get the girl, or team, or job they go for. In those moments I get to point them to their Maker, who cares way more about their heart than their level of contentedness. As parents, we get to empathize with their disappointed feelings and connect our own stories of failure. I’m so sorry bud, I hear what you’re saying. There were parties I didn’t get invited to also. It sucks. But don’t say sucks. I’m sorry. But I’m so glad you feel like you can be honest. How ’bout we look at how this situation stretched you, how it taught you something new about yourself. Or maybe we can just go jump on the trampoline. It’s wildfire from there as family conversations lend themselves to expectations and dreams.

If life is fair, we’ll never grow. Our desires, convictions, or drive won’t be put to the test because, if life is fair, everything we touch will succeed.

If life is fair, it’s all about us, and getting what we want. It’s creating narcissistic thinking and me-centered living. I’m not going to set my boys up to fail by padding their hearts with easy street. There will be kids that don’t want to hang out with them {and those kids are lame} and sports they don’t excel at. In no way, will I ignore their feelings or brush off their words. Honestly, I’ll have to fight the inner mama bear when life doesn’t go their way, so it’ll be good for both of us to step outside of the situation and help them {and me} see the bigger picture that life isn’t about us. We will always cheer on their trying, their attempting. We will never be mad at you for disagreeing with a situation or verbalizing your frustration at our decisions, Bryan and I tell them.

Life was pretty “fair” until I graduated from college, heard a lot of ‘No’s,’ and had to put on my big girl panties and trust that God’s ways are better than what I perceive as “fair”.

If we can come alongside our boys as they fail and flounder for what’s “fair”, we can set them up to communicate effectively and live Jesus-dependent, independent lives.


How have you broached this “it’s not fair” topic with your kids? Any tips or advice? Have you learned a valuable lesson when life didn’t go how you wanted? Please share, I love hearing from you.



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