The Gene of Discontent

My winter break felt like it was a bit of a dud.  That’s how I was feeling the other day as I faced preparing myself to return to work.  My husband was shortchanged out of any time off at all, save for Christmas, so I was home with the children most of the time cleaning up the holiday wreckage and waiting for some relatives to get to town who were delayed by car trouble.  When it dawned on me that my time off was winding down and I had spent precious little time with my husband, I felt cheated.  My focus could not waiver from his co-worker who had selfishly written herself off for three weeks, this woman who has no children but needed time off because her nephew was visiting from the distant land of Nebraska.  I sank into a profound disappointment as I waited for Mark to come home on New Year’s Eve, and again on January 1.

My waylaid step-brother and family did finally get to town to my relief, as my son had been begging and begging and begging to know when he would be able to see his cousins.  I arranged a for sleepover and he was ecstatic.  He sees my nephews so seldom and they are way cool and so very sweet to him.  And the next morning, as I was washing up dishes from our massive pancake breakfast, Nolan asked my how much longer his cousins would get to stay, and became utterly despondent when I told him that they would leave that afternoon.  My heart sank as his shoulders slumped and his smile fell and he uttered sad protests.

“Oh baby, please, please don’t be sad…you’ll wish your time away.  They’re here now, why don’t you play with them and be happy now.”  But his mind was on a course toward if-only, and it stayed with him for a bit.

When Mark came home from work last night, I gave voice to my disappointment over our time that I felt had been squandered away.  I had worked pretty hard over my twelve days off but had accomplished little, we had so little time together, not so much as a New Year’s toast…

“But you have to try to be happy,” he urged, ever patient, ever encouraging.  “The good times are now, when do we get to start enjoying them?”

And there it dawned on me that we were in practically the same spot in the kitchen where I had been giving our son the same talk earlier, and it felt hard to let this advice in, just as hard as it must have been for Nolan.

With each passing year the similarities in our temperaments become more evident to me and it troubles me a bit.  I wonder, is this state of discontent learned or inherited?  I try to restrict my conversation to happy kid-talk around my children, but does he sometimes pick up on my grumblings of discontentment?  Or is it some errant gene, passed from me to him, which so easily creates the furrow in his brow and pensive nature?

Over time my clouds lifted, as did his.  We are having such a pleasant weekend, he enjoying his new games, and I exploring in the kitchen and planning blogs.  Everything feels so easy now.  To capture this contentment, and model it for my children as often as I can – this is my wish for the coming year.

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About Joyce

40-year-old university advisor, 10-years married with two small children, trying to do it all and have it all and still manage the occasional social interaction through the wonderful world of blogging.
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12 Responses to The Gene of Discontent

  1. I think it is a bit of both – some learned and some inherited. Either way, I think the disappointment gene is normal. I find when I get back to school and I speak to the students and fellow faculty, I get a common answer to the question, “how was your break?” They all say too short. So, I think many of us want more. Maybe, within reason, it’s not a bad thing.

    • Joyce says:

      Twelve days off and I can’t really account for most of them! But still, at least they weren’t twelve days working. Next year will be different, I think. My husband’s boss recognized how much time he has put in and will be much more forthcoming with the time off.

  2. I love the part about planning blogs and I love how you are so insightful to pick up on how similar you and your son are and even having similar conversations in the very same kitchen. You are so insightful and so full of understanding and love. I wish you the very best in 2014 and for me it feels so nice to know we have commonality too and it would be so nice to sit over coffee or tea with you and yes, talk about the deeper things not the so on surface things and yes, even our shared feelings of sore feet, although you have remedied yours. I will look to you for advice. Much love. Your friend Tracie.

    • Joyce says:

      Thanks, Tracie! I have missed blogging tremendously and have had a lot of good ideas, but no time to implement them. It took me three days to post this one! It’s like exercise…once you stop you wonder how you’ll ever get going again. But sometimes the only way to get going is to get going! (But boy do I feel rusty.)

  3. Karen says:

    If I weren’t afraid of my blog turning into a Mommy Blog (no offense to the Mommy Bloggers out there), I would write a post about Nature v. Nurture. Instead, I’ll just clog up your blog here with my thoughts. :)

    Before I had kids, I was very much on the Nurture side of the debate. I felt I was going to shape and mold this new little human being into something better than had ever existed before.

    Now after I’ve had kids, I’m very much on the Nature side of the debate. I realize that my kids are going to find their way, and I’m mostly going to be standing on the sidelines.

    I think a lot of what we feel are perhaps “nurtured” characteristics (shyness, pessimism) research is starting to show may actually be genetically linked.

    I’m ambivalent when someone tells me my older daughter, who has turned nine and is starting to express her personality, is so much like me: I’m proud that she is smart and funny, but worried that she may also be anxious and, to use your word, gloomy. I’m not sure if I could have “nurtured” these characteristics out of her, and I’m not sure if it’s a bad thing to go through life a little bit wary and without an insipid smile plastered on your face for everything Life sends your way. The folks on the Titanic who assumed they were going to die probably made a made dash to the lifeboats, you know? They didn’t stand around deck musing, “You know, this isn’t so bad.”

    • Joyce says:

      Ha! Totally agreed on the insipid smile. My word, how do those people stand themselves?

      I do think that I could see some signs of his little emerging personality when he was a toddler. A lot of times he was not particularly satisfied or cheery. I don’t know if there had been time to learn all that from me. I’ll sure try to nurture it out of him, or at least teach him to keep it to manageable levels.

      And to think I always attributed my outlook to being from New England!

      • Karen says:

        Well, it may be the New England thing, too–I’m from CT. ;)

      • Joyce says:

        Hey, me too. Here’s a quote that seems to define out type rather well…

        “What New England is, is a state of mind, a place where dry humor and perpetual disappointment blend to produce an ironic pessimism that folks from away find most perplexing” –
        Willem Lange

  4. I think children are so sensitive and even when we try to keep the “happy mask” up, they can sense what lies beneath. I agree that I love how insightful you were to recognize the same predicament and find that connection with your child.

  5. st sahm says:

    I think women mitigate our feelings even though the emotion is 100% valid.

    Being home with the kids during the holidays is a really big deal and hosting family is a ton of work. I hope you two can plan something alone together to look forward to it…guess I’ll quote your blog title back to you which is obnoxious so I apologize ” Relax and Float Downstream”…sure…sure.

    • Joyce says:

      I was in such a funk! Just couldn’t stop mulling over the unfairness if it all. I hate it when I get that way. Can’t do much more than wait for it to lift. And then when it does I can’t fathom that I had ever felt the way I did. Moods…ugh.

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