It’s Not Fair

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

This video was a wowzer!!! [Scrolling through Scripture Genesis Unit 1] Going back to the references around separation and children. I have an 11-yr-old and an 8-yr-old.

They are close enough in age where the 11-yr-old is being granted more (responsibility, access, privileges) that the 8-yr-old looks at, compares to his own and finds himself wanting. To him it is unfair that the 11-yr-old gets to stay up later, or goes to hang out with her friends more often, more opportunity, etc.

Help me think about how to carry this idea of not leading to ‘separation syndrome’ developing between them when they are in different life stages.

Emmanuel S.

Dear Emmanuel,

We are thrilled that a message from Scrolling through Scripture resonated in your life. For those who have not yet enjoyed the program, the video you reference addresses the idea of “separation”. We demonstrate how important it is to develop enough discernment to be able to distinguish between different things that viewed superficially, seem similar. If we were unable to distinguish between a “p” and a “t” then we would not be able to correctly understand the words “pile” and “tile.” They are both letters and necessary for literacy. There is an important difference between true distinctions such as that one and false ones that are arbitrary and should not be made.

This brings us to your children. There should not be a separation in your love for them, your caring for their necessities, and the security and safety you provide for them. However, they are also individuals. If one of your children needed eyeglasses while the other had perfect vision, it would be ludicrous to think of getting glasses for both so as to be “fair.” In fact, there is no such word in Biblical Hebrew, suggesting that there is no true concept as “fair.” We must be just, certainly. But attempting to be fair leads to impossible situations.

Of course, your eight-year-old wants the same privileges as his older sibling. Does he want the same responsibilities as well? Would he like to do his sister’s homework and take her tests? We hope that in addition to extra privileges, your older child has more obligations in the home suitable to her greater physical and emotional abilities.

You are the father and that means you must lead. Know that the led almost never thank their leaders (at least not until many years have passed). We don’t expect your younger child to clap his hands and say, “You’re right. I should go to bed earlier than my older sister,” when you point out that both children are equally loved but each is an individual with tasks and benefits suited to age and temperament. Yet, we are sure that you can feel confident in recognizing the differences between the two and asserting your authority without fear of causing life-long problems.

We loved hearing your reaction to Scrolling through Scripture.

Enjoy your children,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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