Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Seems pretty simple, right? Whenever you are dealing with another human being, put yourself in their shoes. Imagine what you would want if you were them, and then do that thing. The golden rule. But it gets complicated pretty quickly when you add more people to the mix.
What if you are dealing with two people who want completely opposite things? What if both things are valid, and you need to make a decision between the two? Which one do you do unto as you would want done to you? Who gets what they want, and who gets the shaft? These kinds of situations come up all the time in life, but especially in the parenting of multiple children.
One kid is watching television, and the other wants to practice the piano. Who gets their way? The piano player, because it is a healthier activity? But the tv watcher was there first, and they are halfway through a show that they want to see the end of. But the piano player really needs to practice for an upcoming recital or lesson. But the tv watcher may point out that the piano has been practiced all day, and they have been waiting all week to watch this show. So now what? Two valid arguments, and two people who are looking to you for help. You can really only help one of them. But the golden rule says that I need to do unto each of them as I would want done to me. Impossible, right?
Now, that situation is relatively harmless (unless you are the kid who does not get their way), because there are probably ways to get both activities in, what with DVRs and whatnot, but what about more clear cut situations? One kid is putting together a baseball team against some other neighborhood kids, and their little brother wants to play. But the little brother is not very good, and if he plays, the team will most likely lose. They both implore you to take their side. Please tell him he can’t play; we’ll lose the game! Please let me play; it’s just for fun and everyone deserves a chance to participate! Who do you listen to? How can you make that decision?
If you try to teach a lesson about inclusion and acceptance, the older child will lose their game and be furious, and if I was them I would be angry as well. If I tell the younger kid that they are just not good enough to play, it could be devastating to them, and thinking about how I would feel if someone said that to me makes me realize that, according to the golden rule, I could never do such a thing. Instead, what I should do is to go to my room, lock the door, and watch the new season of “Arrested Development” on my laptop.
But maybe the golden rule can still be applied. Perhaps it does not govern the decisions you make, but rather your interactions with people. Given that I have to tell a young child that they are not good enough to be on the baseball team, maybe I just need to think about how I would want to be told. It’s possible that the golden rule just advises me to break the news as gently as possible, in a loving and caring manner. But, then again, if I sit at home and decide to lay off half of my employees, simply to increase the size of my own bonus, and then try to imagine the most fun way to tell everyone, I feel like that is not really following the golden rule after all.
So, in conclusion, dealing with other humans is really hard, and even when you are given a simple and clear set of instructions for doing so, it is still nearly impossible. Also, there’s just no pleasing two siblings who have decided to be upset. Plus, “Arrested Development” is a good show.