Fair Doesn’t Mean Equal


Every so often we run our heads into the brick wall of “fair.”  To the Engineer, fair means everyone getting the same exact thing.  His siblings are less rigid about it, but the Destroyer has been known to throw massive tantrums over someone getting something that he didn’t.  Most notably at birthdays, where he is joined by his brother’s whining and fussing that he didn’t get gifts.  Which is one of the main reasons that I ask people to not bring gifts to our parties.

This weekend was drenched in fair – or not fair, rather.  The Engineer was heading out to a long-delayed camping trip with his scout troop.  His siblings fussed about being excluded – and I told them that we could “camp out” too.  Cue the Engineer complaining because he didn’t get to join us.


Wait, what?

I was a bit floored – the Engineer loves his camping trips and spending time with his friends.  This trip was going to be amazing: they were going to search for fossils and go swimming at the campsite pool.  How could anything we did at home top that?  His dad suggested that he stay home.  That wasn’t received well.  He wanted to go, but he didn’t want his siblings having a fun time that he missed out on.

I’ll be honest – I think we’re having more fun.  We have air conditioning, they’re sleeping in a heat wave with massive humidity.  We’re sheltered from the bugs, sticks, random possible bears, and everything else I absolutely hate about the outdoors.  (I like nature, but not crawling on me or trying to eat me.)  We went to the pool here, and we bought donuts for breakfast and pie for dinner.  We’re living the life, even if we burnt our marshmallows and didn’t finish our movie.


Equality vs equity

I’m not sure how to get him to understand that fair doesn’t mean equal.  Of course, I know plenty of adults who think the same thing.  We’ve encountered quite a few: “we can’t give him accommodations because the other kids will expect them too.”  Being a special needs parent means we hear that a lot, especially since the Engineer looks pretty neurotypical right up until he doesn’t.

Fair means that everyone gets what they need to succeed or compete at the same level.  I’ve often asked him if everyone needs glasses – he laughs and answers “no.”  Obviously not!  Fair would be giving everyone glasses whether they need them or not.  Equity means giving glasses to those who need them so they can see as well as those who don’t.


I keep trying to teach equity and balance things between siblings as much as possibly.  Kids are highly sensitive to unfairness, and gifted kids even more so.  They don’t need us playing favorites or being selfish, much less tipping the fairness scale in drastic directions.  It’s a fine line – like walking a tightrope.


And yes, we bought him a donut too.  That’s equality – everyone starting from a no-donut point of reference.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.