A sour bite of envy


My in-laws just returned from a trip to visit my niece and nephew’s school for Grandparents’ Day.

“Oh, you should see their school,” my mother-in-law gushed, “it’s so nice.  They have a computer lab about four times the size of this room here, and they all go in and have a class in there.”

And that was enough to release the pang longing and of failure within me, the frustration that I am usually able to keep in check by focusing on all that I appreciate about my life.

“They all have Ipads in that classroom too,” she continued.  “They get them out of a rack and do things on them in class.  I guess that’s why the tuition is so high…”

And I listen and smile, hoping that I do not betray the disappointment has formed in my heart as I am reminded of what some parents are able to do for their children that I am not able to do for my own.

And of course I never begrudge them that, the same as I never begrudge my Facebook acquaintances their trips and grown up houses and new cars.  And normally I can roll with it without any effort at all, happy that all is going well in my friends’ lives.  I never can predict what will catch in my throat, or why…this friend’s new bedroom set…a cousin’s trip to New York…a high school buddy’s new boat.  Or my niece and nephew’s pricey, shiny, private school, with computer labs and multiple gyms for different age groups.

And I think, what is it that all of these people have figured out that I haven’t yet figured out?  Why am I struggling?  At 42!

And it is when such things stick in my throat that I must put forth great effort to filter out the noise and focus.  They are things, they don’t matter, we are fine.

And I try to remember that we have a house and other people don’t have houses.  And we have educations and jobs and insurance.  We have healthy children.  Our cars are not new or especially nice but at least they drive, and maybe if we can hold out a few more years, just a few, we can buy newer ones.  Not new, but at least newer.

Then I again will the self-pity to go away…and in short course, it is gone.  And gone it stays for the next month, or two, or six.

They are things.

They don’t matter.

We are fine.

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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10 Responses to A sour bite of envy

  1. I totally know what you mean. But don’t worry about it. For one thing, all those computers and such are not good for kids. Too much screen time is unhealthy. Having children who are less, shall I say, spoiled, is far better than having all those new fangled contraptions. 😉 They’ll appreciate things more.

    • Joyce says:

      I know…I don’t want my kids to be overly-pampered. It’s such a nice school though…I’ve been there and see their little art projects in the halls…and I’ll tell ya, these art projects were pretty advanced! But on the other hand, the kids went there because the public schools where they live are really bad…and our school district ranks high…which is good, because I definitely could not afford to send my kids to a private anything!

  2. Karen says:

    Yes, I, too, often find solace in the fact that at least there is someone somewhere who is worse off than me . . .;)

    I think that when we have kids we get the opportunity to revisit all the old hurts (as well as the joys) we experienced as children. This is what I’ve found to be the case for me at least–the rejection or disappointment I witness my child suffer brings back those feelings of rejection and disappointment I experienced 25 years ago. I envied classmates who wore Air Jordans, an extravagance that could never be provided by my parents, who relied on Toys for Tots every Christmas. I wonder if my ten year old daughter still thinks about the playmate who came over when she was in kindergarten and announced, “My home is bigger than yours.”

    I still think about it.

    My point is, our hurts are not their hurts. Unfortunately, they’ll get a whole bunch of hurts of their own.

    • Joyce says:

      Oh yes, I could give you a list of disappointments from my formative years! I guess I just want my kids to have every advantage for a good start. Life is so damn hard, even when you’ve got it pretty good.

  3. You are better than fine. I have very similar feelings at times. I will say these words to motorcycle man as we are both working parents “How do these people do it!!!???!!!” and “what are we doing wrong?” but then a reel myself back in just like you did with the exact same reassurances. Because things are never really as they seem. I can tell you about a great family dinner we had, I can make it seem really wonderful with my words and images but what I don’t say is this “my oldest son and husband get into a big fight at the end of the night, resulting in my son storming out without shoes in anger as he drives away” You know what I’m saying. I know you know. That’s why I like you.

    • Joyce says:

      Oh, I know what you’re saying. For sure. I think of that commercial with the guy showing off his new house and car and then turning to the camera and saying “I’m in debt up to my eyeballs.” Ha! Maybe that’s how they do it – with lots of debt!

      Thank you for sharing that with me. I think the times we live in – especially with social media – cause us to see a very polished version of people’s lives, and the result is that we start to feel so isolated in our everyday problems.

  4. It’s so easy to be jealous of others. I think it happens with everyone to some degree. It certainly happens to me.
    I’m glad you are ultimately able to find that balance. You seem to have what truly matters.

  5. Sheryl says:

    In my opinion, teachers (and not technology) are key to the instructional process.

    • Joyce says:

      I agree with you there…and he has had some great teachers so far. We’ve been very fortunate.

      And here’s a bit of irony…my son mentioned something the other day about going to his school’s computer lab. I’ve been so busy being jealous of what the other kids have it never occurred to me that my son might have the same thing.

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