If you are a parent, “That’s not fair,” is a familiar phrase. “Why does she get to stay up and I don’t?” “Why do I have to do homework if he doesn’t?” As adults, we know deep inside that life is indeed not fair, but that is something we often feel uncomfortable telling our kids.
Recently, I had an interesting dilemma. We were having a joined birthday party for our 2 kids, ages 4 and 7. The younger one is allergic to eggs, which rules the cakes out for him. Usually I bake a tart for his birthday, which he loves. But for many practical considerations, it would have been good to have a cake as well. A cake can be decorated, a cake can feed lots of people (it was a large party), a cake is recognized and understood by normal kids. While my kids love what I make for their parties, their friends turn up their noses at anything that doesn’t look like a normal sugar loaded cake. My daughter was surprise that none of her friends last year were willing to try the plum cake I made for her. “There is no icing,” they declared. “We don’t want it.” I’ve learned my lesson.
This year, we decided to have a normal cake. Well, almost normal. I get my cakes from a Cordon Bleu instructor who can make these kiddie cakes taste as good as possible. She told me she could make a vegan cake so that my younger one wouldn’t feel left out. I’ve had my share of vegan cakes, and quite frankly, they suck. Most likely the other kids wouldn’t notice. If it looks cute and tastes sweet, I am convinced that most kids would eat a cake made out of play dough. But my kids might notice. Especially the allergic kid. I’d tried to bake egg-free muffins for him before and his reception was lukewarm at best. I decided against the vegan cake. If my older one gets one cake a year, why shouldn’t it be a good cake?
Does this kid look devastated about missing out on the cake? Who knows, he might have to work it out in therapy when he is 30, but for now he seems ok.
I think that vegan sausage, veggie burgers, and gluten free pasta are futile ways to achieve fairness. I don’t understand why every cookout needs to include veggie burgers. Some good vegetarian food would be wonderful, but bad vegetarian food shaped into a hockey puck seems ridiculous to me. Does the hockey puck shape make vegetarians feel included? We just attended a family event for my husband’s work held at a baseball stadium. The food was hot dogs, mac and cheese, etc. All pastas and buns had eggs, but they dug up some egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free roll for my younger one. It was their kill-all-birds-with-one-stone allergy food, and it was inedible. Boy, how we would appreciate some veggies. Allergy friendly food doesn't need to be shaped like a hot dog bun to make us feel included.
Fairness doesn't mean sameness. There is an enormous and very natural human desire to fit in, to be just like everyone else, and not be the one person left out. But that is not what life is like. We all have different needs, different limitations, and different abilities. Learning to make the best of your situation is one of the most important life skills. I wonder if we sometimes deprive the kids of that in our pursuit for fairness.