There’s not a household on earth where the words “It’s not fair!” aren’t heard every now and then. If you have children under the age of, oh, 23, then it’s likely you hear it on a regular basis. Our younger son (8) is wrestling with what’s “fair” a lot these days. Some of it is simply his age – transitioning from the self-centered phase of early childhood into the it’s-not-all-about-me that all of us struggle with, no matter how old we are. But, some of it is our family, because, honestly, we hold him to a different standard than we hold his older brother (11).
I can tell it doesn’t make much sense to him now – our long-winded explanations of his older brother’s spot on the autism spectrum and why his brother gets more redirection, more reminders, and what must appear like more patience from me.
For a long time I tried keeping things “fair,” but that just seems to bring a different set of woes. A child on the spectrum may need additional reminders (or more direct reminders, if you haven’t gotten their attention the first time), before he/she eventually complies with your request. But giving a typically developing child more reminders only teaches him/her that you didn’t really mean it the first time (at least that’s my experience), thus you’ve begun a game of “how far can I push this?”
We’re going through a phase now where our younger son is imitating some his older brother’s fears and quirks. I don’t think he’s completely conscious of it, but he’s definitely chosen the ones that appear to earn his brother more attention and/or more leeway. I can almost hear his cries of betrayal when I don’t react the way he expected I would – the way I would if he were his brother.
I know (at least I hope) that this will all work itself out with age and time, and these experiences will contribute to his becoming a more empathetic and compassionate young man. That’s what my making-something-of-it brain tells me to believe. Meanwhile, my mom brain is forever searching for more things I can put on his side of the scales. Because what he can’t see (yet) is how it will all even out later in life … maybe even lean more in his favor, as there are things he can do that his brother may not. Fall in love. Live on his own. Find employment doing something he enjoys. Have lifelong friends.
When I let my mind wander to these kinds of thoughts, then I’m the one saying, “It’s not fair.” There’s so little in life that is. But I’ll take my end of the scales over anyone else’s, any day of the week.