Skip to content

Yes, Mr. Precedent

Life ain’t fair. Make a note of it.

It’s one of a great many repeat statements your kid will chant: “It’s not fair!”

Probably you say it once in a while, too, but by now the little voice in your head has made his peace with Murphy’s Law and possibly learned to laugh about it.

Or throw something.


You spend all his little childhood explaining that he has to share and take turns and not scream or throw things and then you put him into a sport.

And scream at him to grab the ball away from the other kid and throw it at some other kid and not share the ball under any circumstances unless he hears you scream from the sidelines to do it.

Tell him it’s all very fair so long as the rules are followed.

And then be prepared for him to hold you to the rules till your dying day.

My poor firstborn.

Firstborns are the practice pancake. You make it to test out the heat, the pan, and the oil and then set the burnt or soggy thing aside to start on the real pancakes.

Don’t talk to me about the angst of the middle child or the eternal childhood that shadows a last-born. Unless you’ve felt the complete unfairness of the firstborn, struggling to grow up as a guinea pig, you’ve lost me.

You are never sure what the rules are until you’ve tested them on the firstborn.

Every question in the world gets a first fly-by with this one.

We usually erred on the side of “no” in case the other four were taking notes.

They were.

You’d better believe it.

Watch your precedents. Start small.

If you’re planning to have a face painting clown and pony rides for your child’s third birthday, you’d better be ready to spring for the Blue Angels fly-over and Luke Skywalker himself serving the cake when he’s ten.

Maybe you are actually that parent. Maybe you will be filthy rich (or deeply in debt) and maybe your sweet little tater tot deserves it. But we multiplied every new situation by five and extrapolated it over the next fifteen to twenty years.

You do the math.

At first, you’re just trying to keep up with the baby photos. First kids are easy. Are you counting how many you took? It almost killed me, but my fifth has an equal amount baby mementos.

I may have had to shred some of the firstborn to make them equal.

But no one’s going to be screaming at me about it thirty years from now how I loved one kid more than the other.

Then you have to keep up with the politics. Did someone get their ears pierced? What age? Did someone get to attend the wild party as a sophomore? The freshman is taking notes.

And what about finances?

It’s scary how expensive high school is. This is “free” public education, not counting the enrollment thousands of a private school. But if your firstborn went public and your last born went private, did you really think neither child would notice?

Who gets to date and when and who had a bigger graduation party? If you paid for athletics for one child are you obligated to pay for the other if she would rather do theater? The same amount? What if one child goes to college and the other wants to travel to Istanbul?

Was there some sort of precedent set for “life goal parental support”?

Who gets a car and when, and how is it paid for?

Imagine the first wedding over here! Can we pay for five weddings? At what quality? Do our brides get more monetary support than our grooms? Why?

Will the grandchildren be held over our heads at competition level?

“Dad, you helped coach little Timmy’s basketball team, why won’t you coach little Eva, Amanda, Donny, Larry, Jonathan, Zoe and Mikey’s teams, too?”

How do you stay fair and stay alive??

The answer’s simple, honest, and very painful.

I love you.

But life ain’t fair.

Published inParenting


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *