Fair Does Not Mean Equal


We are in the deep throes of purging and packing. As I went through Sweet M’s clothing yesterday, Miss H noted, “He has way more clothes than me.” After a pause, she followed up with, “Does that mean your going to buy me more clothes so it’s fair?”

I stopped what I was doing because I knew this conversation had made a turn and needed my full attention. It was my moment to help her learn a very valuable life lesson.

“No,” I answered. “He has what he needs and you have what you need. It is fair.”

“But…” her brain was working hard, I could tell. “It’s not equal.

“You’re right,” I agreed. “But equal and fair are two different things. Right now M wears 2-4 outfits a day because he is learning to feed himself and he’s cutting molars so he’s a bucket of drool. You’re good at math, so let’s do a math problem.”

“Okay,” H agreed.

“How many days are in a week?”

“Seven,” she answered.

“Great. And how many outfits do you wear each day?”

“Just one most of the time.”

“That’s right,” I said. “So for a whole week you need seven clean outfits. Is that correct?”

“Yep,” she answered.

“Okay, where M is at right now, we will say he needs two outfits for each day of the week. So how many clean outfits does he need for one whole week?”

Miss H paused a moment while she counted. “Fourteen.”

“Yes. So you need seven clean outfits to get you through a week, and M needs fourteen clean outfits to get him through a week. Does that sound right to you?”

“Yes,” She answered.

“Does that seem fair to you?” I queried.

She nodded her head slowly. “He needs more than I do.”

“That is right. But do you both have an equal amount of clothing?”

“No, he’s got twice as much,” H replied.

“Why does he have twice as much?” I asked, trying to drive the point home.

“Because he needs more,” she answered. “I don’t.”

I nodded. “Right. So a lot of times things won’t be fair if they’re equal because we all have different needs at different times. We try really hard to make things fair around here, and sometimes Momma and Papa fall short, but fair will not always mean equal. Do you understand that?”

Miss H licked her lips. “Yeah, I think so.”

My 6-year-old gets it. Let’s hope eventually others will, too. But I know if we continue to raise deeply loved, empathetic children with patience and compassion, the world as a whole will get there one day, too.


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