Growing up the second oldest of four girls, my formative years were filled with unfair and unfavorable comparisons between me and my siblings. I was always comparing my family bill of rights with that of my siblings, using their perceived lives of privilege to leverage greater perks of my own.
Anyone with siblings or more than one child knows the routine: “I should get to stay up later because Kara does,” “Kerry never has to wear hand-me-downs,” “I have to do all the outside chores, while Kim gets to stay inside and do the easy stuff,” and the totally insane, “How come my siblings got braces and I didn’t?”
The scales of justice worked overtime in our house. I was incapable of taking action on my own without holding it up to the light of what my siblings were doing or might have unjustly benefited from. And they were just as bad in their efforts of jockeying for perceived justice. While I heard ad nauseum from my parents that life wasn’t fair, I firmly believed it should be.
When I aged out of childhood, I somehow retained an equally mistaken belief that I had left the wages of unfairness behind. But, they somehow found and followed me to college, then into my career and later into my own relationships and home life.
From classmates protesting I had received an unfairly higher-than-theirs grade on an essay, to correctional clients claiming they had been falsely accused and unfairly prosecuted, to my own daughter loudly insisting I like her brother better than her, to campaign leaflets in the mailbox telling me I’ve been duped by the incumbent, adulthood has not immunized me against unfairness. I’m regularly affected if not infected by it.
One of the most insane battles I was called to break up between my son and daughter at ages five and four was when they were dissatisfied with the amount of cherry licorice I had dispensed. “It’s not fair, he got two pieces,” Kate had railed. “I only got one piece and I wanted two pieces.” Without comment, I grabbed back her length of licorice, stretched and snapped it in two and then handed both pieces back to her surprised look.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised, when, the other day I walked into the house after work and was greeted by my son saying, “The cat left you a present on the enclosed porch.” Actually, he wouldn’t have had to mention it, as my nose had already picked up on the gift-giving before I heard the offending words and my eyes took in the unseemly pile of turds.
“Why do you assume the present was for me?” I asked. Logical question.
“Because it’s your porch,” my children replied in unison.
Now, isn’t that an interesting assessment of the situation and assignment of blame? So I posed a couple of other questions to the self-satisfied-looking siblings:
1. Whose cat made the mess; and 2. Who left the cat shut on the porch?
Turns out it was Gibbs (aka “Gibby”), Connor’s cat, who likes to sneak out and hide underneath the tablecloth of the long table on the porch, in hope we have left some tempting leftovers atop the table during the cold weather months, when the enclosed porch serves as our family’s auxiliary refrigerator.
“It’s not fair I have to clean up the poop just because it happened to come out of my cat,” Connor was quick to protest. Plus, it seems my daughter, Kate, was the one who actually neglected to play cat round-up the way I have taught them to do to so no felines are left to frolic with our food. However, Kate built her anti-crap clean-up case around the fact that her actions had been accidental and not part of an ongoing pattern of neglect. Therefore, she was not negligent.
According to Nietzsche, “In the end we are always rewarded for our good will, our patience, fair-mindedness, and gentleness with what is strange.” So I got a length of paper towel, some soapy water and the Odo-Ban and cleaned up the mess, once again, getting my nose rubbed in the inherent unfairness of life. It’s my inheritance.