I used to hear it all the time.
AC: Mom, can I have a TV for my room?
Polimom: No, Adorable Child. The TV in the den is for us all to watch, and there’s another for the gameroom when you have friends over. We don’t need televisions everywhere in the house.
AC: But my friend Janey has one in her room!!
Polimom: Sweet Pea, when you grow up and have a job and kids, you are free to put a tv in every room in your house if you think that’s the right way to raise your children. And if Janey’s mom thinks Janey should have a tv in her bedroom, that’s her choice. Your mom, though, thinks two televisions for a household of 3 people is plenty.
AC: That’s not fair!!!
This argument has had many variations over the years, but it generally ended exactly the same way: that’s not “fair”.
As AC has gotten older, though, I’ve added more options. For instance:
AC: Mom, I want an iPod. Janey and Susie have iPods, I’m the only person I know that doesn’t have an iPod.
Polimom: (gives variation on dialogue above)
AC: But Mo-o-o-o-om! I have no way to listen to music!
Polimom: I have no problem with iPods specifically, but I don’t see a “need” for me to buy one for you. If it’s truly something you want, though, perhaps there are some jobs we have around the house that you could do to earn some money. Then, you can buy one for yourself.
She now owns a hot pink iPod, but the phrase “it’s not fair” did not come up — even though I know for a fact that Janey and Susie did not work for their iPods. She may very well think I’m a mean mom, but she’s finally starting to understand the ground rules.
Even more importantly, though, she’s starting to understand that life is filled with choices, and that there are values underpinning them. She knows, for instance, that I don’t approve of pre-teens disappearing into their rooms for hours on end, staring zombie-like at a screen; that reading books allows the mind to grow, as opposed to the stultifying mindlessness inherent in watching television; that it’s important for a parent to know what shows are being watched. And then there’s the little matter of a work ethic…
Fairness, as a concept, does not figure into any of this.
Yet this odd, childish (and not-so-endearing) interpretation of “fair” does not end at childhood. It extends to questions asked in our society every day, as described by Patrick Edaburn’s post at TMV.
It is thus hardly surprising that these people [from “The Barney Generation”] now expect that they should be given everything they want or need as an adult. Of course there are many very hard working members of the Barney generation and hopefully they will overcome this trend.
If they do, then there can be much to gain from a generation whose desire to achieve is tempered with a sense of fair play.
If they do not, then we will continue on our trend towards a society where the many depend on the few, and that can never last.
Speaking as a parent, I can attest to the fact that we are raising a generation smack-full of over-indulged kids whose expectations are completely out of kilter with generations past.
Obviously, Patrick’s right when he writes that not everyone is coming up with such bizarre and unsustainable expectations — but what he doesn’t say is that it’s extremely difficult to stand against the tide. I often feel as if the sands are sucking out from beneath my feet, and the only thing that keeps me upright is the knowledge that, however difficult it is for me, Adorable Child would be overwhelmed immediately without my help.
How will it be any easier when the entire societal wave is pushing against her — and those who were raised the same way — when we’re gone?