The Law of Fairness


Why Life Isn’t Fair (an Occasional Series)

For the first seven years of my life we lived in Downey, California, a suburb of L.A. Most of those years are a blur. But one memory is quite distinct: I’d reached the sagely age of five and was going to school! Which was neato. But what was even neato-er was that I would finally get to cross the street by myself! I still remember the delicious terror of crossing for the first time. I’d been warned that if I attempted to cross a street alone, cars—hundreds of them—would swoop down and kill me. Over and over again. And yet, here I was crossing the street, and not being killed even once. Then I had an epiphany:

Cars only kill you if you cross the street without permission!

This was the moment I first realized that there was a Law of Fairness. No one told me. I just knew. The Law was there, and it was good. If we followed its precepts, everything would turn out exactly as it should: boy-tooth-fairy-119325Milk would show up outside our kitchen door as long as we put our empties out. Ice cream would show up on the dinner table as long as we ate our green beans. And money would show up under our pillow as long as we put teeth under it. Heck, it would even be brought by a fair-y!

If there was anything that I was even prouder of than crossing the street, it was that I was going to get to wear my new artist’s smock! Mom had learned at Open House that we would be doing Art in kindergarten, and would therefore need smocks. So she did what any mother of an Only-Child-Who-Also-Happens-to-be-a-Genius would do. She bought the Simplicity pattern for an “Authentic Parisian Artist’s Smock,” and spent two weeks stitching it to perfection. She finished it off with a gorgeous monogram just like the ones the penniless impressionists in Paris wore during the early 20th Century.

The first half of the first day of Kindergarten went excruciatingly slowly. I blew bubbles in my milk, and tapped my toes during nap time. But Art finally arrived! And then Miss Shirley spoke the fateful words, “Alright, children. Go to the closet and take the first smock you see.”boy-painting_1

By the time I got there, my smock had been snatched by a little cretin named Davey, who probably wouldn’t know an artist’s smock from a dress shirt. Which was, in fact, what all of the other smocks in the closet were—kid’s dad’s dress shirts. Mine was the only Authentic Parisian Artist’s Smock, the only one that was in itself a work of art. I went straight to Miss Shirley, and pointed out her hideous error in judgment.

Her response dripped with unfairness: “We all need to learn to share, Mitchell.”

“Share?!” I was devastated by the unfairness of it all.

Mom called the teacher and begged her to reconsider: “Can’t there be an exception? I made that smock for him. It has his initials on it.”

“Monogram, Mother,” I corrected.

No exception was made. And I was irrevocably scarred, becoming at last the shattered shell of a man you see before you today.

OK, so I got over it.

Lifes-unfairBut what I still vividly remember is the sense of unfairness. Only a short time had passed since I’d become aware of the Law of Fairness, and already I’d learned…

It could be broken!

To read more of Why Life Isn’t Fairclick here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Story Power and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to The Law of Fairness

  1. I wonder what Davey’s doing these days. Maybe cutting nice folks off in traffic~

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Erika Kind says:

    It is so interesting when we look back how we saw life as kids. It is so funny to recall those times out of the eyes of a child. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Life is often cruel at age five. At that age, while in kindergarten, I was introduced to the reality (at age five mind you) I couldn’t always play with the plastic Firetruck, and that I would have to share it with the other kids! Of course, today, my grand-kids understand (thanks to grand-ma) that they have to wait until I’m done with it first. The year 2017 isn’t to far off.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. De castro says:

    Busy teachers tend to ignore youngsters in primary schools….. In today’s world teachers need special abilities including commonsense decision making. With classroom sizes of 30+ doesn’t
    help…..bad decisions only make children more determined. Yourself living proof.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Lucie says:

    Now see, my Mom taught me to always be KIND to others because it wouldn’t be “FAIR” if they were kind, and we weren’t! What she failed to teach me is that others play “UNFAIRLY” and LIE, to boot!! Oh well, guess that’s why I have such a weird sense of humor. Great piece, Mitch. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. De castro says:

    Grew up in a society where it was considered “smart to cheat” …..then entered another where
    It was “unfair to cheat” … took me a while to decide which was “just”….looking back over seven
    decades now realise what is “equality” and fairness.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. i love the Truth of what you shared, and the brilliant way you expressed it.
    Your words always cause me to See the story in my head…..
    and that, is a pure pleasure.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Yu/stan/kema says:

    Very good. Well written and a delight to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Why don’t the adults share their houses or cars, if they tell the children to share.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. kindergarten equals nap time…BONUS!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. frenchc1955 says:

    Excellent post! It is always interesting to reflect back on childhood and the perceptions we had and how those perceptions come with us to adulthood or change.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Nancy Ruegg says:

    A delightfully-told but sad story, Mitch. I feel so sorry for the little five-year old you (AND your mother). For most of us, those first few experiences illustrating “life isn’t fair” stay with us for the rest of our lives. Note to self: Try to be as fair as possible to little folks , and (hopefully) avoid placement in the “bad memories” column!

    Liked by 3 people

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  14. Nothing grinds my gears more than hearing “life isn’t fair”. This post is thoughtful, and wonderfully crafted, what a great read!

    Liked by 1 person

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  17. ken riddles says:

    Got the emotion of this – we can all I’m sure reflect on similar scenarios. For me, you should have been given your smock – bound to help produce better art! 😎

    Liked by 2 people

  18. mitchteemley says:

    Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:

    Life isn’t fair!


  19. tabitha59reachingout says:

    I think your teacher could do that with ease because she was a “miss”. I seriously doubt anyone with a true mothers’ heart would do that to a sweet little child or his mother. Actually, I think it would be harder for the mother after all her hard work. Surely, her heart and soul went into that beautiful little smock. Can you imagine if Eli took Samuels little coat made with such love from his mother each year, and gave it away? Sheesh! ….. My own mothers heart cringed, winced and mourned over all the “unfair” things that my own children experienced. It’s true that life isn’t fair, but shouldn’t teachers and parents be examples of all things good in life? Fairness is one of those things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Thank you for sticking up for me, Tabitha, even if it is a bit after the fact (and I’m not sure I fit the description of “sweet little child” ;>). That era was very big on conformity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • tabitha59reachingout says:

        I love kids and I think every five year old is a ‘sweet little child’. I am sure your teacher did what she thought was best, even if I do take exception to what she did. It was a really good post. 🙂 Debbie

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Oh, I recall the “unfair” horrors of kindergarten. Each day as we left the room, each child who “behaved properly” got a little star stuck to their forehead. I, unfortunately, was a talker, and generally talked halfway through naptime. That was not considered “behaving properly.” My most common memory of kindergarten was walking home in tears without that star. So unfair! :-!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Lilly says:

    I think the teacher was incredibly wrong but your mother showed your teacher more respect than your teacher showed your mother. While part of me feels your mother should have insisted, I think she was right not to. There’s something admirable in allowing the teacher to set the rules in the classroom (even if you disagree with them). In a way she was teaching to respect someone even if you disagree with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Paula says:

    Mitch, it’s not fair that you can tell such a great story and get such accolades and I sweat over the tiniest fragment of a good yarn and get nothing for it. But as your kindergarten teacher said so sagely, “We all need to learn to share, (Paula).
    Thanks for always telling a good yarn that helps us see life and ourselves as the fragile, struggling, delightful and, (as my mom would say) perverse people we are.
    Keep up the good work. I was not serious; I love reading all the ‘accolades’ in your comment section. Besides, if I got this many comments, I’d probably need a Bromo Seltzer to settle me down. : >)

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Jennie says:

    Do you have that teacher’s email or phone number so I can call her and give her a piece of my teachers-mind? (ha). There is a FAIR way to teach fairness. Still, I love the post and your writing. On to part 2…

    Liked by 1 person

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