My pet peeve list has doubled since I became a parent. I am not usually an easily agitated person, but we all have those things that make us crazy faster than they should. The phrase that grinds my gears the most is “IT’S MY TURN.” If I could eradicate these three words from the English language, I would. I honestly do not care whose turn it is. I have goals for my son that greatly supersede keeping track of who had what toy last. We are working on eliminating those words from our family’s vernacular for many reasons. Here are five of them:
1. I Am Not Omnipresent
I am one person. In addition to keeping track of the kids, some chores have to be completed and occasionally the house has to be presentable for company. I simply cannot be everywhere a child may be at all times. I cannot keep track of it all, even with the extra pair of eyes moms get in the backs of their heads. I will miss something eventually.
2. I Have a Bad Memory
It started with pregnancy brain. I was warned that pregnancy would test my ability to remember how to complete simple tasks, like tying my shoes. I was under the impression that this condition would clear up after delivery, but that was not the case. My postpartum memory skills were permanently MIA once sleep deprivation, returning to work, putting dinner on the table, and keeping an extra person alive all took their toll. Even if I cared enough to keep track of whose turn it was or how long Johnny got the fire truck so Tommy gets the same amount of time, there is no way my mommy brain would keep up.
3. Life Is Not Always Fair
While not all toddlers need a trip to the school of hard knocks, trying to maintain fairness is a losing battle. Unless we hide our children from the outside world, eventually something will not go their way and life will catch up to them: a classmate who acts out when the teacher’s back is turned, a Little League coach who picks favorites, a bully on the playground. As a parent, I am not going to waste my time and energy fighting to maintain a fairness utopia that is unsustainable.
4. Learning to Respond to Unfair Situations Is an Important Life Skill
Our children will choose how they respond when faced with the inevitable unfairness of life. We can create tiny whiners or teach our kids to respond well to adversity. Watching NBA players is a great study in how people respond when things do not go their way. Many professional athletes make their way to the referees to voice their opinions when they disagree with a call. Wild hand gestures are made, pitiful faces pout, and if the cameraman is close enough, you can hear them whine. These are perfect examples of how not to respond to these situations.
Recently while watching college basketball I was impressed with a player who had been wronged. Replays clearly showed that this player had not touched the opponent he was charged with fouling. Instead of complaining, he shook his head, took a deep breath, and lined up for the free throws to be shot. That is the kind of response our world needs to see more of. I want to produce adults who know how to go on when they have been cheated, not babies who cry at the thought of unfairness.
5. I Want to Foster a Heart of Compassion for Others
If fairness is my only goal, I will spend most of my time keeping score. When I think about the young man I hope to raise, scorekeeping is not all I hope to promote. Instead, I want my son to see his peers with compassion. I want him to pick out the kid in the room who is playing alone and befriend that child. I want him to go out of his way to share his new toys and derive joy from sharing his cherished possessions as easily as he enjoys playing with that toy himself.
My referee hat is officially in retirement. Instead, I am moving on to the heart-changing work of developing compassion for others. I do not care whose turn it is, but I do care about the type of man I am raising. Sharing no longer means taking fair turns in my home and we are all better people because of it.