It Is Fair

IMG_3144I’ll start by saying we had an unforgettable day together.

I’ll continue by remarking the show was nothing short of magical.

And as much as I wish it were not true, before I go on I have to admit that sometimes a person’s single comment does have the power to ruin a day or an hour or an experience for me.

It didn’t yesterday, but a single sentence by a parking lot attendant has been sitting with me for almost the last 24 hours.  And that is usually my first clue it’s time to write.

Cavalia-Odysseo is a feast for the senses; and for a young boy who has not only been riding horses since he was three but thrives on sensory stimulation, there really was no other place else Edgar could have (I might even argue should have) been yesterday afternoon.  On the recommendation of Edgar’s horseback-riding instructor, who knows Edgar just as well as she knows her four-legged companions, we were, at times this week, out of our minds with anticipation.   When I told Edgar we were going to add the VIP pass so he could go to the stables and see the horses after the show, he pretended to faint.  When you have a child with epilepsy, this, of course, does not generally go over well; but once the split-second of terror passed and I saw he was okay, I understood the depths of his excitement.

The show is, understandably, not cheap.  When you think about the artistry involved, not to mention the deserved care of the equine performers, the pricetag makes sense, perfect sense.  But when it was time to purchase the tickets, reason needed to prevail.  Paying for a family of five to go was prohibitively expensive.  And since Edgar is the horseback-rider in the family, he got the ticket.

Now lest you think Edgar’s brothers sat home and twiddled their thumbs and bemoaned their fate while their brother was having the time of his life, they weren’t.  They were at the nearby Boston Children Museum having the time of their lives.  My husband dropped Edgar and me off at the show and headed to lunch and an afternoon of kid utopia.

However, as we pulled into the parking lot and told the attendant we were getting dropped off, he assumed it was me with all the children.  I told him it wasn’t–just one of them.  He said, “Aww, that’s not fair.”  His comment did not come across as particularly judgmental, but I felt the need to let him know that Edgar’s brothers were in for a good day at the Boston Children’s Museum.  Realizing he probably shouldn’t have said a thing, he quickly joked, “I wish I were going to the Boston Children’s Museum today.”

And that was that.  Edgar and I went in to the VIP tent as the other three-fifths of my family drove off.  We had a great day; they had a great day.  And that should be the end of the story.

But of course it’s not.  Because the attendant’s use of the word “fair” has taken up uncomfortable residence in my mind.

The attendant didn’t have any way of knowing there have been plenty of times Edgar’s brothers have had privileges when he has not.  He couldn’t tell that Edgar has epilepsy and that the therapeutic benefits he has experienced being around horses are beyond comprehension.  Perhaps he did not think that even when you do shell out money for Cavalia-Odysseo, there are still only so many dollars in the bank account, and that sometimes families need to make choices.

But perhaps the most salient point in all of this is shrouded in nuance, residing in the attendant’s use of the word fair.

It was–at least for that moment–his contention that all children having the same experience would be fair and that when only one of them has a particular opportunity it’s not.  To him, it was black and white.  Gray need not apply.

For me, though, “fair” is not an either/or concept; and it actually strikes me as dangerous to term and stringently categorize everything in life as either fair or unfair. A continuum, especially since human beings are involved, must exist.  In my personal and professional worlds, fair is not everyone getting the same thing; fair is everyone getting what they need.  When fair is looked at in this manner, balance is achieved–which, in truth, is the ultimate goal if not manifestation of fair as a concept.

So, to the attendant yesterday, it actually was quite fair that only one of my sons saw yesterday’s show.  It is also fair that only the two sons who are willing to practice violin get the accompanying (not to mention expensive) music lessons, that the oldest of three boys tends to get all the new clothes, that the one who needs to gain substantial weight gets an extra scoop of ice cream, that the youngest’s consequences are not as lengthy as his brothers’ for the same infraction.

Moving to gray requires critical thought and substantial effort; but the dividends, I think, will be worth it.  And that strikes me as very fair.


2 thoughts on “It Is Fair

  1. As teachers we spend a lot of time explaining this and living it (especially you as a parent)! Fair and equal are not the same thing; nor should they be. People are individuals and do not need cookie-cutter approaches to everything in life. So, I hear you, understand you, and totally agree with you!!

  2. It may have taken me a second but I’d have given him the benefit of the word,
    “You’re right. And it’s not fair that the one going to the show has challenges. Not to worry though, we compensate!”

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