Jun 30 2010

The Incredible Unfairness of Being 8

When you’re 8 a lot of things can seem unfair.

When you catch hell for smacking your sister and leaving a massive whelt (cuz your dumb sister gets hives and any contact with her skin leaves tell-tale evidence), it’s unfair.

When you have to clean up your room because your mom is “too busy” to do it for you, it’s unfair.

Even when you have to do homework! How unfair is that?

Sometimes “unfair” is relative and sometimes something happens that’s really Unfair, with a capital U.

I figure that having kids comes with the responsibility of teaching them how to be good human beings. As far as I’m concerned, I can fuck up every other job I ever do, in my life, as long as I get this one right.

I teach my kids that when they make a commitment, they keep it. No matter what.

To that end, my 8 year old, like it or not, is honour-bound to hold up her end of a bargain once struck. In doing so she has learned to work hard and feel great about the accomplishments she’s achieved.

This past week though, my little girl has been the recipient of, what I consider, a pretty unfair decision.

The details don’t matter but the broad strokes do. A lot.

In one swoop she learned that commitment only applies to her, that someone that has not worked as hard gets the golden egg gets to shove it down her throat to boot!


So now her hard work was for nothing and she gets mocked for not getting the same accolades as the other kid.

Double awesome!

How do I teach her that the behaviour of others should never dissuade her from what she knows is right and what makes her feel good about herself?

How do I show her that it is only her own opinion in her efforts that really matter?

How do I tell my 8 year old that the world is sometimes unfair in the most heinous ways and that sometimes those ways cannot be explained away with adult rhetoric?

And do I teach her to not sweat the small stuff even though, in her life, this is the BIG stuff?


I thought about it a lot. I agonized through 90 minutes of yoga, trying to get my head around this explanation. I think I messed this up with the 11 year old a while ago because she has a great, big protective wall of sarcasm up around her to avoid such disappointment in the adults, and kids, in her life.

I don’t want the 8 year old to have a matching wall. It’s too tough to see through.

My strategy is to cuddle her up, even more than usual. To tell her that nothing can take away the accomplishments that she has achieved. That her worth is more than the decisions made by others.

If you knew the whole story you might think it insignificant. You might think that until you looked into the face, stained with tears, of the most amazing, talented, nice, funny, sweet, loving 8 year old in the world.

You might change your mind then.

I was put on this earth to protect and teach her. Now that I can’t protect her from this hurt, I’m going to have to teach her to put it in perspective.

In a year we’ll look back and think it silly to get so upset. But that’s a year from now. Tomorrow we’ll have to figure this out. It’s not going to be a simple solution. In fact, there is no solution that will teach her more than leaving things the way they are.

And that, my friends, is the saddest part of all.