It’s been one of those weeks in our house. On Wednesday my step-daughter went to the pool with her cousin. Around 5:40 or so my brother called to see if the kids were still here. Hmm… my nephew was, but not my niece or step-daughter. He said they called him around 4:00 when the pool closes to say they were looking for their bag with house keys, etc. in it, but hadn’t heard from them since. The girls are 10 and 11. Now, normally I hate that the 10 year old’s dad gave her and her 9 year old brother a cell phone, but it does come in handy from time to time. This time, it was sitting on the counter. No help.
Dinner was cooking on the stove as I called my wife. She hadn’t heard from them either since before they went to the pool. My brother hopped into his car to look for them. My wife drove around the neighborhood on her way home. I jumped on my bicycle since the girls were on their bikes and I could ride down the alleys like they could. We spent around an hour looking for the kids. I finally figured out how to use my stupid phone for voice commands with all the calling back and forth between the three of us.
Finally, my brother called to say he had heard from my niece and that they were on the way home. Seems my niece ran into an old friend and went over to her house without calling to say where they were going or to even ask if they could.
Now to the “fair” part of this post. My step-daughter thinks everything has to be fair despite being repeatedly told that life isn’t fair. This time fair meant that she receive absolutely no consequences for breaking several rules and worrying her mom and I sick. First, she manipulated a rule about leaving her little brother to fend for himself into: “you told me that I can’t ever leave anyone,” and that she had to stay with her cousin or get into trouble. She’s good at the rule manipulation. Then, she didn’t know that she did anything wrong and ignorance of the rules should be a just argument. Of course that didn’t fly with mom. Now, we are trying to be good parents but sometimes it’s really hard to know the right answer. Mom(my wife) decided to allow daughter to write what she did wrong and a list of consequences. With an empty paper, not only did she not do “anything wrong”, she shouldn’t be punished. That means punishment is doled out by parents.
Whew. You might be asking what all this has to do with “fair” and “why did I read this far?”, but give me a few more lines and I’ll get to it. We have been arguing about “fair” for something like four or five years. This isn’t fair, that’s not fair. Except when it favors her. It wasn’t fair that my oldest went swimming when she and her brother (my step son) were visiting their dad in Phoenix. It wasn’t fair when we went and saw some movie – I don’t even remember which one – again while they were in Phoenix.
Last night at dinner she wanted “seconds”. [Another topic that we’ve been struggling with for years. She’s heavy. All the lab tests show that she’s physically healthy and yet, she’s still large. So limiting snacks a bit, only one serving at dinner (which I have to do for myself) and that kind of thing is what we do to at least maintain. At ten should could very well grow into her weight according to the doctors if she’s not adding now.] My two daughters the oldest and the youngest of the four had seconds and now it wasn’t fair that step-daughter wasn’t allowed to have seconds. “But S* had seconds. She had a whole plate of salad.” Ah. A whole plate of salad.
“Well, to make it perfectly fair then, you can have a whole plate of salad.”
“Noooooooo. I don’t want that. I want more pasta. K* had more pasta.”
“She didn’t have as much food on her plate as you did.”
“Well you had more food that I did”
Here’s where the mental jolt comes in. If you’re a parent you know what I mean. The argument is a complete disconnect from where you were 3 seconds before that.
“Well, I’m 184 lbs. Do you really think that you need to eat as much as me?”
“You just think I’m fat! You say you don’t make fun of my weight, but you do.” Stopping, screaming, crying, gnashing of teeth, it’s like Dante’s fifth level of hell.
After a while there is a modicum of normality although that is relative. We’re sitting at the table, my wife is flipping through the book club order form that the kids bring home and notes that “Aquamarine” is for sale and mentions that we have it (just came in yesterday from Netflix). A back and forth ensues resulting in A* saying that she has seen it, when she was at her dad’s. Of course I had to say, “No fair, you got to see that movie before we did?” Cue the stomping, crying, and gnashing. Not from me from A*. Why? Because now I’m being “mean” to her. “But it’s really not fair that you got to see it,” I tell her.
My wife looks up from the book club thing and says, “why do you have to antagonize her? She was getting settled down.”
There’s that internal jolt again, “why am I getting in trouble? That’s sooo not fair.”