Parenting the Extraordinary: Life Isn’t Fair, But It’s Still Good
by Lisa Thompson
We’ve all heard the adage “life isn’t fair”, and as true as it is, it still puts a lump in my throat every time I revisit the concept. Growing up, when I was met with this truth, most often it was while complaining about some alleged injustice or perceived slight that had occurred in my spoiled, charmed, sheltered life. I was feeling hurt, or worried I was missing out, mortified that my parents, teachers or anyone in authority dared to overlook my entitlement. I was a brat.
As my boys are getting older, Porter (13) and Fischer (9) are starting to participate in similar activities. Until now, it’s been easy to avoid comparing them or having them compete against each other. But lately, we find ourselves sorting out brotherly competition more often. Since the oldest has a special set of challenges and skills, these situations are stickier than they were in the past.
Fischer recently picked up archery. Porter has been shooting for a few years, and he is still inconsistent in his scores. He’s not the strongest shot, but he enjoys shooting, and we love that it gives him an outlet to compete in a solo sport. We put Fischer off for a year or so when he asked to shoot. It seemed like Porter’s thing, and since he doesn’t have a lot of things that are just “his,” we were trying to avoid making him share it with his brother. When we finally caved and let Fischer start shooting, it was no surprise that it came easily to him.
He started scoring higher than his brother, four years his senior, almost immediately. He is nonchalant, confident and skilled. When I think about the stark difference between the two boys, it’s hard to swallow the unfairness of it all. Porter works so hard at everything he does, yet the wins just don’t come easily. Fischer also works hard, and his work is rewarded with almost instant success. Life really isn’t very fair.
Nowadays when I arrive at this familiar conclusion, it’s usually based on some situation I’m dealing with as a parent. It doesn’t sting any less when applied to my children’s lives rather than my own. Didn’t make the UIL team you tried out for? Life isn’t fair. Your brother is naturally good at something you have practiced and still struggle with for years? Life isn’t fair. Uncontrollable acne? Life isn’t fair. Everyone but you has a cell phone? Life still isn’t fair.
Of course, I make light of all these injustices, but I know in his teenager brain, they’re all big. I try to think of ways to soften the blows, worried about his mental health and about his heart. I’m learning to add this thought to the end of the phrase: “Life isn’t fair—but it’s still good.”
Lately, in more settings than only archery, Porter has been getting frustrated when his efforts aren’t productive. Maybe it’s math homework, or trumpet playing, or a complicated social interaction. He always ends up exclaiming something to the effect of, “Things are just harder for me.” And he’s right. They are harder for him, in almost every instance. And when we come to this conclusion, I just want to wrap my big, awkward teenager up in a smothering hug and say, “I know. Let momma fix it.”
But I can’t. I can’t fix it because life isn’t fair.
So, I have to spin it. No, nothing comes easy to Porter. He may never be a skilled archer, or a quick learner, or even have clear skin. But, there are still silver linings. There are still positives in each of these situations. We can celebrate the things that do go well, the champions we find along the way, the belly laughs we share, and the good food and fine chocolate we discover, as well. Fun fact– Porter is a chocolate connoisseur.
“You’re right,” I tell him. “Things are harder for you. And life is not fair, at all. But life is still really, really good.”
And that smile I get when I remind him of that, THAT smile is always worth it.
About the Author: Lisa Thompson is a mother of three boys and is married to Brad, a firefighter with the Texarkana Texas Fire Department. She is the Economic Developer for the City of Texarkana, TX and teaches as an adjunct at University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana.