“That’s not fair.”
How many times have we heard our children say that? How many times do we continue to say it to ourselves?
Last Sunday, Bun Bun was playing in a league championship semi-final soccer game, which ended in a loss when the referee decided to determine the outcome instead of the players. Sure, it sounds cliché to blame the officials but I’ve been at this soccer thing now with the girls for six years and it’s a first. Now that I’m a referee myself and understand our purpose on the field, I know more which makes me conversely less forgiving of incorrect calls. This was more than that. This was egregious – a ‘phantom’ whistle that resulted in a penalty kick within the last ninety seconds of a tied game – in which all but one foul was given in our favor – and neither the other team nor the center referee’s sideline assistant, with whom he consulted, understood the call he was about to make. Why? Because nothing had occurred. A bunch of girls were fighting for the ball. Play on. Instead, he gave the other team a penalty kick while the parents from Bun Bun’s team (me included) booed him. We’re gracious losers but we’d been beaten not by the girls of Ventura Blue but by a man unwilling to admit he’d blown his whistle by mistake. He threatened to eject us all. We encouraged him to do so. Flanked by two other refs, he walked off the field after a heated discussion with our coach. And yes, I stalked him as he headed toward safety, simply to remind him of his error in stealing a soccer match from a gaggle of ten-year-old girls.
The parents gathered, knowing we had to take the high road to set an example but I was having difficulty deciding what that example was supposed to be. Hey kids, shit happens! They’re already beginning to understand that life isn’t always fair but…but…but…I’ve never exactly embraced the concept nor inflicted its reality on my children. I want them to continue to believe that if they work hard – really, really hard – they’ll get what they need and want more often than not. Yeah, shit happens, but is that really a lesson?
Take the case of Freddie Mac. I was listening to NPR the other morning and got riled when I heard them talk about the taxpayer-owned mortgage company hedging bets against financially strapped homeowners to increase their profits. We’ve all heard stories of responsible adults trying to refinance at historically low interest rates in order to stay afloat, only to be denied because of red tape and rules that continue to work against them. Turns out the same kind of financial products that made Michael Burry a rich man – along the lines of credit default swaps – are being played with at Freddie Mac. And the rules preventing legitimate borrowers from obtaining more manageable mortgages are being written by the same organization that is supposed to be helping them. Aaaaaaaaah! Just because it’s ‘legal’ doesn’t mean we have to shrug our shoulders and say, “Life isn’t fair.” Freddie Mac should absolutely NOT be betting that homeowners will fall into foreclosure. Bad, bad, bad.
In the face of injustice, on any scale, my gut kicks into overdrive, as if there’s nothing I can do to prevent myself from running down a dark alley after a thief who just stole my purse. It’s dangerous, I know, but it’s how my psyche works. I know life isn’t fair but I want it to be and I want my kids to expect it. When it’s not, I want them to raise their voices – not their fists, we’re girls – and attempt to make things right. When and if the battle is lost, or deemed unworthy, ‘acceptance is the key’ but not before.
Yesterday I’m sure it occurred to my friend, after she lost her engagement ring, that life was not fair – but she wasn’t going down without a fight. Employing small children and old people alike, she overturned the school in her desperate search. The fact that hours later I found the bauble at the bottom of my purse is beside the point, and another story (not that interesting). The facts remain: there was a perceived injustice, a will to make things right, and a positive outcome.
Here’s the deal: I don’t want to teach my kids that shit happens. It does anyway, regardless.
Besides, sometimes it doesn’t.