“You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes, You just might find,
You get what you need.”
-The Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Parents hear it all the time, “That’s so unfair!” If you’re like me you respond with something like “Yeah, yeah kid. Life’s not fair. Get over it.” It’s the circle of life, the cycle of parenting (or any other round shaped metaphor). We said it to our parents, our kids say it to us and one day their kids will be saying it to them. The reason for this is because life isn’t fair. There was no guarantee upon birth that your life would be even-keeled and full of justice. No one made any of us promises of an entire lifetime of things going our way. And that’s a good thing. There are times when it sucks. There are times when it is tragic and beyond comprehension. I’m not talking about the unfair tragedies in life. I’m talking about your every day, run of the mill inequities.
Some of these things are good for us to experience. Often there’s some kind of lesson to be learned from life’s unfairness. Following are some things that most of us experienced at some point in our youth. And we probably whined and threw a fit about them. But really? Many times these things serve to teach us a lesson. We just may not realize it until 20 years later.
1. Bad teachers: Now, I’m not talking about teachers that are predators. Obviously that is beyond the category of unfair. I’m talking about mean teachers. They are miserable. They don’t really seem to like kids. They don’t really seem to like teaching. Maybe they have a personality disorder. They are rude, they make snide comments about you. Maybe they single you out in front of the class. As long as they are not crossing the line into verbal abuse, get over it. I’m talking about older grades here. Once a kid is hitting the pre-teen/teen years they should be able to deal with a teacher who’s a little rough around the edges. There are a lot of great teachers out there, but every once in a while you’re going to get a teacher that’s just an ass. Guess what? One day you’ll have a college professor who’s an ass. One day you’ll have a boss who’s an ass. Assholes exist in all walks of life and all professions, so you may as well learn how to deal with them at a young age.
2. Not making the team. Yes, this will feel a little harsh too. You had your heart set on wearing the cute volleyball uniform and you had even experimented with different hair styles that would both be flattering and keep the hair out of your face as you spiked the ball over the net. Except you can’t even figure out how to serve the ball and you tend to run into the net when trying to assist. So, you don’t make the team, but you learned a valuable lesson. Playing sports is hard work. It takes dedication and practice. And just because you and your best friend had already picked out your Maverick and Iceman nicknames doesn’t mean you were fully prepared for tryouts. Come back next year, tiger, and show ’em what you’re made of.
3. Not getting the “stuff” other kids get. Some kids get all the coolest newest stuff. The cool toys, the cool clothes, the cool shoes. And for every kid that gets these hot ticket items, there’s at least a few who don’t. Who bug their parents for said item. Who compare the parents of said spoiled child to you. Well guess what kid, I am not and never will be that parent that runs out and gets you the latest and greatest just because every one else has it. You may get it eventually, on an appropriate gift giving occasion. But chances are I’ll find a bargain version of that big ticket item and it will be almost as good as the one your friend has. But getting everything you want, when you want it, just sets you up to be sorely disappointed when real life doesn’t work out that way. Or it sets you up to be an entitled asshole. Either way, learning to delay gratification at a young age definitely serves most kids better and sets them up for reasonable expectations as adults.
And I was like:
4. Not getting invited to every social event. This can sting a little. Sometimes you may be left out. You may get your feelings hurt if a group of friends is doing something without you. This one takes some savvy analyzing to deal with properly. Are your friends excluding you in a hurtful way? Or is it based in practicality (there’s only so many kids that can attend a sleep over before it turns into Animal House and John Belushi is sleeping on the floor in your living room.)
You see kids, you won’t get invited to everything when you’re an adult. You may have to miss out on a neighbor’s cook-out or maybe you won’t be on the invite list for your coworker’s Christmas party. Maybe they only had so much food to serve. Maybe they forgot to invite you. It’s fine, really. It’s not a big deal. Because you worked through these types of issues when you were younger and learned to not take it personally. You didn’t really want to go anyways. You don’t really like hanging out with those people that much. I mean, they are kind of annoying and obnoxious with all their socializing and stuff… O.K. -maybe you’re still not over this one.
5. That long awkward phase. There’s no positive spin on this one. It’s rough. The worst part is you know you’re totally awkward. You’re hair is full of cowlicks and a bad perm. Your teeth are too big for your face.
You’re clumsy. You drop your tray in the cafeteria in front of everyone. You stutter and stammer. You try to sound cool but it just doesn’t work. You try to be funny but no one laughs. This is a tough time. There’s nothing you can do but wait out this phase. It will pass eventually. You will grow into your teeth, you will learn to laugh at yourself when you do trip and fall (because that will never change). Eventually you will look back at these years and cringe and try to burn all the pictures and evidence so that your future husband doesn’t have to carry the mental picture around in his head of your “Greg Brady Phase”. You will wonder why your older sister never went through this phase and why all of your friends seemed to grow out of it much sooner. You may carry the scars with you forever and still picture yourself as the dorky 13 year old even when you have your own 13 year old to parent.
But, hey, that phase was good for you, right? You learned something from it, I’m sure. Right? Oh, @*$# it! There was no bright side to this! This sucked! There’s no lesson to learn here, no sunshine to be blown up the arse about this one. This one has no reason. I see no need for kids to go through this “feeling uncomfortable in your own skin” kind of stage. This is a chapter in life that could be completely left out and we’d all be better off for it. It’s even worse when some people seem to breeze through these years unscathed- gleaming teeth, shiny hair that is always perfectly styled, graceful and confident and popular. While some of us feel like this:
It’s just. Not. Fair.