Just how much I hate the phrase "life just isn't fair"
By katiehaggan on February 19, 2010
I've never liked the phrase "life just isn't fair." I've heard it used in thousands of different situations and tones throughout my life; my mother would scold that "sometimes life just isn't fair" when we talked back or demanded more that our share of snacks, attention, the couch, etc. In school "life just isn't fair" was applied to a myriad of things (sports, grades, by-lines, drama roles)--you name it and it just wasn't fair. Personally I always felt that the line was a cop out in most situations. Growing up with my little brothers, I can understand the use of the phrase to explain why someone always did get one more chip that the others (Mom didn't eat chips so she couldn't magic away that extra dorito when needed), or to explain gently why someone didn't get to go along to the birthday party with everyone else. It was a simple way of teaching us that we didn't always get to do what we wanted in life--that there are boundaries and limits and things beyond our control. However, as I grew up the phrase became overused. It became a throw away, an explanation without details, a way to defend biased decisions without backing them up with facts. It became a way to favor one person over another without justification--a way to play favorites and blow off anyone who dared question the decision. WELL YOU KNOW WHAT--SOMETIMES LIFE JUST ISN'T FAIR!
In the past three years my life has changed immensely and at a speed that threatens on occasion to overwhelm me and drive me into hiding. I've met a man and known immediately that he is the person put on Earth for me. I have been embraced and loved by his family and he by mine. I've become the other mother (I hate the term stepmother) to two of the most wonderful and amazing little boys and we've added another little boy to the herd. And I've had to say "sometimes life just isn't fair."
The heartbreaking truth about divorce is that both sides fight so hard to tear each other down and villify one another that they lose sight of what brought them together in the first place. I truly do not know if that is because hating is easier than admitting that you've failed at something so significant and emotionally charged, or if it is simply the result of living in a decaying relationship for a length of time and not knowing in which direction to take that first step. I witnessed my husband's divorce firsthand--not as the cause fo the divorce, but rather the strength to fight back and not give in to the temptation to walk away when all seemed lost. The worst divorces are those with children involved and, as most child custody cases go, this one was particularly unpleasant and fraught with personal attacks on both sides. For example, our little boy S was born after his parents separated and for the first 15 months of his life his father was told that the police would be called if he attempted to leave his estranged wife's house with the baby for parenting time. It took $10,000.00 for that to stop. The cost of the divorce was not just financial--the emotional toll on all sides was devastating. Happily, the judge intervened and after two years the parenting time was law and our boys were together in our arms. Then came the good times and the hard times and the move.
My husband is active duty military. There are no provisions for that in a divorce--no law that protects the father who has signed up to serve his country and protect that court's ability to rule. And so we packed up our belongings and moved across the country with one son, leaving two behind. And life just wasn't fair.
Forty five days have passed since we've held our little boys. One hundred and three more will come and go before we are together again. They try to understand why Daddy doesn't come to get them every Wednesday night for dinner, why they spend weekends at Oma's instead of with us, why their toys and beds and stuffed animals are sitting in an empty room with a closed door over 1300 miles away. It helps that they can Skype and see our faces and see where they will live for seven short weeks this summer, where they could spend Thanksgiving and Christmas if their mother would let them leave the state. It helps that we can talk and laugh and, yes, occasionally discipline and for a short while be together. But when our five year-old cries and wants us to come home to our old apartment, to go back to the way things were and wants to know why it can't happen, and the only the words you can say to explain away the pain and the tears are that "life just isn't fair sometimes"--that's when the futility and helplessness of being a parent truly throws in your face that life ISN'T fair and that the sacrifices we make as parents are more painful than labor, more selfless than we could ever comprehend. So we smile, and we tease, and we cajole a smile back on the little face we love so much, and we save our tears for later. Life just isn't fair--I just wish our kids didn't have to learn that lesson so soon.
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