Friday, November 19, 2010

The Ultimate Unfairness of Fair

We try to teach our children to play fair with others because as our reasons demonstrate it's in their own best interests to do so.  Would you want someone to take your toy from you?  Would you want to play with someone who will not wait their turn?  Would you want to play a game with someone who doesn't follow the rules? Who will want to play with you if you don't play fair?  Well ideally, the answer would be no one.  We teach them about fairness supposedly because it is in their best interests, but the reality is that they will grow up and go out into a world that is ultimately UNFAIR.

We tell them to do their best and that will be enough.  We try to brace them for the reality that "you can't win them all."  But what we don't tell them is that when they grow up, they will be living and competing in a world full of adults that simply didn't learn this lesson as a child or who simply disregarded the archaic idea that it was in their best interests to be fair.  What to do?  What to do?  One day when we get frustrated enough we will tell them "Life is NOT FAIR.  AND there is NOTHING we can do about it."

I have lived through plenty of loss, lies, betrayals, and broken promises to be the walking Poster Girl for UNFAIRNESS.  I lost my dad at fourteen before I even had a chance to push him off the pedestal.  I've worked for years for a promotion that was promised to me and ultimately denied and after fianlly quitting was doled out to a stranger free of charge.  I work hard and at every pass am made to feel that my best is not good enough because mistakes carry more weight than good ideas and intentions.

For me, I have no choice but to be the good girl that I am.  Somewhere way back in my past it must have been burned into my brain, or else we are born hardwired with the personality we have.  In any case, being UNFAIR simply doesn't register as the thing to do.  I'm not saying I'm perfect, oh I'm so the Poster Girl for UNPERFECTION as well if such a word existed.  I have been angry, frustrated, disappointed and saddened by the UNFAIRNESS of life, but knowing my children will meet it head on one day scares me.  Some part of me wonders if my training in FAIRNESS will leave them completely unprepared to survive in an UNFAIR world. 

Should I be teaching them the truth; that people who put their needs first, who take short cuts, who simply don't care whose feelings get hurt or don't look back to see whose lives are left drowning in their wake are the ones who succeed in the UNFAIR "real" world?  Am I dooming them to failure?  The short answer is most definitely YES.  But here comes my hard wiring again - I simply can't show them a roadmap that I don't have.  I will probably never know what it means to have SUCCESS by life's standards.  I have no grandiose notions of acquiring enough money not to give a crap about how I spend it or having strangers know my name and thinking that they perhaps know me too.  Happiness for me,  survival for me, depends on drowning these notions.  These notions are simply not compatible with my brain.

I fear for my children like all parents do.  We want to protect them from anything bad.  We want them to be safe and happy and healthy and we tell ourselves that if we can just accomplish this holy trinity of parenting then life will be fine.  It will open to them all the opportunities we never had.  It will give them the happiness we dream for them.  But the cynical me will always think in the back of my brain that life isn't going to GIVE them anything.  They will simply have to TAKE IT for themselves.  But my brain starts to overload at this juncture in thought because is TAKING what they want ULTIMATELY UNFAIR?

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