My boys are playing together just fine over in a corner of the dining room, on the glass table we never use for eating, (because it’s glass and kids have twelve thousand sticky hands.) They’re occupied with the Contraptions, really fun wooden planks they like to make into tracks, so it looks like the perfect opportunity to sneak into the kitchen and cram down another of those dark chocolate brownies I made last night, even though I just finished telling them, when they asked, that it’s too early in the morning to have one.

I should know better by now. I mean, I’ve been a parent for eight years. I should know that in a household of kids, there is never, ever, ever a perfect opportunity. But sometimes I go a little wild and get my hopes up.

Caught red-handed

So I’m in the middle of cramming it in, hiding in the pantry just in case they come wandering into the kitchen, when the eight-year-old catches me, red-handed, with chocolate all over my fingers (the curse of gooey brownies).

He looks from my face to my hands and back again. And then he tosses out that bad word I just love to hate: “Aw, no fair. You ate a brownie. You said it was too early for us to have one.”

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I think fast. “Well,” I say. “I’m a grown-up. When you’re a grown-up you get to eat whatever you want in the morning.”

Real smooth, I know. Real good example of the way I DON’T want my children to eat. Well, parenting and paradoxes go hand in hand.

No fair – and its several variations

I get so tired of the phrase, “No fair.” They have several variations: “It’s not fair” or “That’s not fair” or “You should be fair” and so many more I can’t even remember right now, in my annoyed, flustered, I’m-so-sick-of-this state of mind. All I know is I hear them 15 billion times a day.

When someone goes out to play because he’s finished his after-dinner chore: “That’s not fair. He gets to go play already, and I’m still stuck here doing dishes.” When someone pours his own milk and it’s half a centimeter more than I gave the brother: “It’s not fair. He got more milk than I did.” When someone comes down the stairs with a red shirt on: “No fair. I never get to wear a red shirt.”

What I want to say every single time I hear these delightful words is, “Well. Life’s not fair. The sooner you can learn that and accept it, the better.”

What I usually do, instead, because I’m a good parent, is empathise with their feelings and then explain exactly why fair isn’t equal. Sometimes they understand. Most times they don’t.

But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take incredible strength of will to keep calm when they’re throwing out and kicking around the F-word. In fact, this is what it usually sounds like in my head:

When we’re eating dinner, and their daddy and I have a glass of wine:

Three-year-old: “No fair. You get wine.”
What I want to say: “If you only knew who I’d be without it…”
What I say instead: “Want to taste?”

He gets close enough to smell and picks up his cup of milk without a single complaint. That’s right, son. This stuff is NASTY, because it’s cheap and it’s survival.

When we’re watching a movie and the boys get their cups of popcorn:

Six-year-old: “Hey, no fair! He got more than I did!”
What I want to say: “Wow. Aren’t you an efficient counter? You know fractions already? Because he has half a kernel more than you.”
What I say instead: “Here. Have another.”

Because I don’t want this fight. I know what it will look like. It will look like five cups of popcorn dumped onto the floor so they can count it, and the three-year-olds can’t even count past 12, which means this will take ALL DAY.

When the older boys are sitting around during art time, and the eight-year-old decides he’s going to make the most epic paper airplane ever:

Five-year-old: “No fair. Jadon knows how to make a paper airplane.”
What I want to say: “Stinks to be you.”
What I say instead: “Here. Let’s learn how to make one.”

Forty minutes later we have a paper airplane that won’t even fly, because making paper airplanes is much more complicated than it seems.

When it’s almost nap time, and I’m telling the three-year-old twins what they need to do next:

Three-year-old: “No fair. My bruvvers get to have quiet time and I have to take a nap.”
What I want to say: “Only boys who know how to say ‘brothers’ get to have quiet time. Besides, I don’t need a break from your brothers. You, on the other hand… I need a six-year break from you.”
What I say instead: “Do you want to crawl like a dog to your bed or run like an ostrich?”

During dinner, the oldest is sitting beside his littlest brother, watching me feed him:

Eight-year-old: “No fair. You get to feed him.”
What I want to say: “What the?”
What I say instead: “You can do it if you want.”

Two minutes later, the baby sneezed sweet potatoes all over his face, and I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing hysterically. Not so fun now, is it?