Category: Fairness

Fairness

I’m so lucky to be spending the summer in Vermont on the farm (quillpigfarm.com) with my daughter, Sara, son-in-law, Doni, and their daughter (and my spectacular granddaughter), Audrey, who will turn three only days from now.  My goodness, time flies.  And life is good.

They are raising pigs and meat chickens, and have twenty egg-laying hens (and one rooster!).  As Audrey says when asked where the chickens and pigs from last year are:  “They’re in the freezer,” in her sweet little voice.  A very different life here from the place I live most of the time:  New York City!!

The other day, I walked out to where the pigs are raised to give them my kitchen compost.   Their spot could not be more idilic.  A huge enclosure with many low bushes and small trees to keep cool under.  Plenty of sun and fresh air, and in the lower part of forty beautiful acres of farm land.  There is also an old trailer for them to go in should they choose to.

Anyway, I bring this up because that day something amazing happened.  After feeding the pigs, I stayed to watch them and suddenly one of them ran up a small hill inside their enclosure and stood there. Four or five others ran up after it and as quick as a wink, the first pig ran down the hill and began eating again.  The others just stood around up the hill seeming to wonder what was so urgent and interesting up there.  They eventually ran down the hill again and resumed eating.  I was impressed by what seemed like the first pig’s ingenuity.  Then stunned when that pig did it a second time!!  So smart and more than a little wicked.

I found myself thinking about fairness.  I’ve been equally impressed over the years with children’ innate sense of fairness.  We must be born with this sense because it is very apparent by the time children reach the age of two.  It is how I reason with kids when there is a scuffle over a toy or a space that more than one child wants to claim for themselves.  The way I encourage kids to think about taking turns is to look them in the eyes, at their level, and explain that Jack picked out the toy first and that Ruby has to wait for her turn.  Then I ask Jack to give it to Ruby when he’s finished with it.  You can see them thinking about this proposition.  It is so much on their minds that it doesn’t take long for Jack to hand the toy to Ruby.  I congratulate Ruby for waiting for her turn, and Jack for giving the toy to Ruby when he was done with it.

After all these years, I’m still amazed by this exchange.  I can see how proud each of them are of themselves, as they should be.  When this is repeated over time it becomes part of their way of thinking about the world.