Missing Out

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“Why can’t I go?” I held the paper clutched to my chest. I’d earned a trip to a church summer camp for free. My ticket out of my own little hell for two weeks. I needed this. Never had I been allowed to go to camp. Up to that point I had been led to believe it was a money issue.

Please let her say yes, God. Please, please make her say yes. I promise to go to South America to do mission work when I grow up if you will just let me have this one thing!

My mother stood silently, her face turned away. 

“Mom! Why won’t you answer me?”

Her body stiffened. 

Finally, her back still turned to me, she answered:

“Because I never got to do something like that.” 

And then it dawned on me. My mother, my own mother, was jealous of me. Jealous of this opportunity. Was there more to it? Probably. But there was an undercurrent of envy and that was what I latched onto.

I judged her harshly.

How can you be jealous of your own daughter? What kind of person does that make you?

It struck me yesterday, listening to my son and daughter practicing on the piano, that I am envious of them. I am jealous that they get the opportunity to have piano lessons from a real teacher. I am jealous of my son’s spelling and math ability, how easily music comes to him. I am jealous of my daughter’s artistic creativity, her ability to easily make friends, and her extensive glitter pen collection. What I could have done with even a couple of those glitter pens back in the day… 

Even now I don’t understand all of the reason behind my mother’s refusal but I did learn an important lesson. I learned I could survive without church camp. I also learned, and a great big wave of relief washes over me even now when I think about it, that God did not *want* me to serve as a missionary in South America. 

Whew.

So where am I going with all of this?

Envy was a surprising emotion to recognize in myself and I find it embarrassing to admit. It snuck up on me. Since I am not a particularly unique person and I am living on this planet with billions of other not so unique people, I expect this means that other parents also experience jealousy when it comes to their kids. I wonder how many?

We all want to believe that we are somehow better than our parents, though, don’t we? 

And yet we aren’t.

I expect that maybe even more than my kids’ glitter pens and the piano lessons that I am most jealous of their youth…. those unexplored futures, the potential looming ahead of them. I wonder if this is simply because I am an older parent, or if younger parents feel this acutely, too.

Ultimately, I don’t intend for jealousy to motivate my saying “no” to things in the future… except maybe if my daughter wants to go out for cheerleading.

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108 thoughts on “Missing Out

  1. I’m gonna get really real for a minute, even with the risk of being judged harshly. I am jealous of the unconditional affection, attention, praise, encouragement, support, love that my kid receives from the man I love. From the man who used to love me, and who promised those things to me forever. I believe I have been super-human in my ability to keep this to myself as much as possible, and in my ability to force gratitude for my child having this even if I don’t. But the pain and jealousy, and loneliness, surprises me nearly every day. And yet I struggle to keep my heart open, even if it hurts more that way. Because they both deserve an open heart, and so do I. I only pray the pain lessens, or by some miracle subsides…or maybe that my heart grows a thicker membrane around it.

    Liked by 11 people

  2. I can’t relate to this feeling, but I can hope no damage is done because I say so.

    However, I do remember wishing terribly that I could have piano lessons when I was a kid, and I was thrilled our kids had them for a while (when/if they wanted them). They did not want them long for some reason; their time was filled with other things. Our grandchildren have soared way into music, like I would have liked to do. ❤ Does that urge skip a generation?

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  3. The first and only time I ever felt the green-eyed monster was when my daughter had her first baby. I envied the fact that she had her whole life ahead of her, with a loving husband and a child and (hopefully) the ability to have more babies. And I had nothing to look forward to. A marriage that has been unhappy since the beginning (going on 34 years), a chronic illness that can take me down in mere minutes, my best friend dead at 50, and the joy I used to feel at life leaking out of me like the water in my defective kitchen sink. I envied all her possibilities. All her future dreams. She was in the beginning of the Summer of her life while I was at the backside of the Autumn of mine. Some days were a constant struggle not to just end it all. Fast forward 10 years…..I now have four grandbabies, a shop/studio that I am working at opening of my own, my “old age” money coming every month that I can count on. A body that is still broken and unpredictable and a marriage that teeters on hellacious (and I am unable to leave for various reasons) and I am still waiting on my joy to come back. But I no longer envy my daughter! I now envy my 85 yr. old mom….she loves her life…she is active…healthy….still lives in our family home alone….drives just as well as she did 50 years ago….has tons of friends, looks forward to everyday. She is a dynamo….and I am a dud……

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  4. Jealousy is a sneaky thing. Wonderful that you won’t say no to your children out of only jealousy. That’s a gift.

    And for what it’s worth I’ve been to church camp, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be at least in my experience with it as a kid.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow, Victo! Understandable! I can relate! (shaking my head) I’m jealous of my grandkids, who have all the advantages, love, and support (financial) to easily get ahead. However, there is a definate satisfaction in making it on my own career wise after my mother scrapped together 300 dollars to pay for 3-years of nursing school back in 1957. Yep, satisfaction and feeling proud! Christine

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  6. Wow, this brings up a LOT of feelings for me.

    Not to be too pedantic, but what you’re experiencing is envy — an attribute or possession belonging to someone else that you want for yourself.

    Jealousy is when you’ve got something (or someone) and you’re worried that someone else is going to take it from you.

    Your children can’t take your youth from you, and if you want to learn piano, or spend hours drawing with craft supplies — you’re an adult. You can have those things. No one can take them from you now. It’s super freeing to realize that. If you were waiting for it, I give you permission to give yourself those things. It’s TOTALLY cool, and I’d love to see your drawings or hear your compositions.

    Having a feeling of envy is normal, useful, and perfectly understandable.

    Acting on it with cruelty or selfishness is not.

    Luckily, your mother (from things I have read, obvs I don’t know her,) was petty and small and cruel, and you’re not her. No matter how much you might be envious of your children’s youth, talents, or opportunities, the idea that you would stop them from utilizing/enjoying any of them is anathema to you.

    You’ve got feelings, because you’re a person, but you love your children and are willing to do good for them.

    Liked by 4 people

    • LOL! It is funny that I have used jealousy and envy interchangeably my whole life but yes, there is a critical, subtle difference in their meanings that means they should not be used interchangeably. Now I feel like I should rewrite the whole piece! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nah. My previous comment, though well-intentioned, is incoherent as HELL. I cut and pasted things and forgot to finish a sentence, even. I put the word ‘Luckily’ in there, meaning to talk about how you’re not like your mom, but instead I made it sound like you were ‘lucky’ she was mean to you, which is NOT what I meant! 😀 I meant… you’re better than that. You have those feelings, like she did — but she took from you, and you’re not doing that to your kids. And if it turns out you’re super envious of things they get — you can just get them for yourself, too, without taking from them.

        If anyone should rewrite, it’s me!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Since I don’t have children, it’s difficult to know whether I would have been jealous. I know I would have fought such feelings for all I was worth because the one emotion I could be sure of from my mother was not love but jealousy. How much of it was her personality and how much the bi-polarity, I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Piano lessons eh? My sister wanted piano lessons and got them., though in hindsight, I do not know if she wanted them because I could already play (she got very disheartened when it was easy for me with no music and terribly difficult for her with it). Jealousy can be destructive. I have never wanted anything she has/had, neither did I envy her way of life when she was first married, working, or the occasional foreign holiday she had, though perhaps I got a twinge of green when her kids arrived, but looking at them now, I’m glad I don’t have any. Does that make me a bad person? I’d like to think not, just one who knows her limitations and remembers what my Dad said, that I could have anything I wanted, provided I worked or saved for it.

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  9. This is so true, I find myself being jealous too. Usually when I am also feeling underappreciated. It is real and normal reaction I think, but what makes the difference between mean, and just an unwanted difficult emotion, is whether you still give beyond your comfort zone, or you deny the happiness to others that you haven’t received yourself.

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  10. I’m not so sure I would call it jealousy. It may be more regret for an opportunity that your mother never had. Unlike piano lessons, art supplies etc which enrich your children’s lives, camp does expose one to separation from family and has some potential risks. Maybe she felt you just weren’t ready for it. Who is to really know why our parents did what they did?
    Leslie

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  11. I felt my Mum’s jealousy many years ago; it was very uncomfortable. I have strived hard not to do that to my son… but he’s 17, so fit, strong, talented, full of hope, adventure, possibility and freedom… it’s hard not to feel a little envious at times. Plus he has NO IDEA how lucky he is, living here near Byron Bay, Australia, surfing & eating organic food!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. It took me awhile to realize my mother was jealous of me. It was a female jealously that was based in competition. She had two sisters and always felt competitive with them, so I guess that’s where it originated. She never said it, but I’m sure that’s why she wouldn’t let me do things.
    I have definitely been jealous of friends (and strangers of course!), but not my children. At least not that I know of. They are so different from me, and also each other. Although I hope they don’t make the same mistakes I made! (K)

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  13. Finally got around to checking my reader (I really should do that more often). Nice post! Been a while—I’d almost forgotten how your posts made me think.

    Also, mind sharing your secret for having over 80 likes here and, according to the reader, over 5K followers? 🙂 I’ve got nowhere near that many. And rarely get comments at all, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I always love your honesty!
    Yeah, you hate to admit it, but I know No, you are not alone! My kids are much more coordinated then I will ever be, plus great swimmers. I on the other hand stay in the shallow end. 🙂 I can swim, but not for long and I like my feet to touch the bottom. :

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  15. Oh my gosh. I needed to read this today. I don’t want to go into details, but it relates to my mom and me. It’s a terrible feeling when you feel a parent is jealous. I think, she’s my mom! How can she be jealous of me, I want her just to be happy for me. Genuinely and sincerely happy for me. She’s the one person in this world I wish that for. With my own daughters, times may come up when I’ll be jealous. But I’ll make a serious effort never to show that. I want them to experience things I haven’t. But I do wish I had some perks that their jobs offer, lol. Great post, thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I do not have children but what I read reminds me much of what I came to realize is an issue with me at work. I am at the end of my career and being subtly and not so subtly pushed out. I see the new shinning stars and I was jealous of their future and opportunities. And it was getting me down. Until I went on vacation and realized, soon, this freedom, this time dedicated to just pleasing me will be mine to enjoy permanently. All the years of scrimping and saving was for this reason. I realized I could buy the things I want without putting myself into debt. I want to sleep in…Ok, that’s fine. I will not owe anytime or pieces of me to anyone. What a joy that thinking has brought me. These youngsters just starting out are at the bottom of a very long climb. Yes, shinning and new has its glory and I am glad to support them if needed. But I no longer have to prove a blinking thing to anyone…. I sit back and watch the youngsters vie for acclaim and glory. I also watch them lie and cheat to get there. It actually makes work fun for me now.
    What a great time to be alive.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. What a thoughtful post.

    There was a brief time when my parents’ marriage was a touch rocky, and during those months, my mother was very jealous of my closeness with my Dad. She said some hurtful things to me then. It took a while to understand but eventually I let the comments roll off my back.

    But my sister’s piano, that mom got rid of when I was 4, nope, I never really forgave that. Beth had lessons and everything. I was the family musical talent (after my mom who could have been a professional singer) and NEEDED that piano. (In my 30’s we bought a house with an old piano in the basement and I took lessons. My piano teacher DIED. While my playing wasn’t great, there was no causality link made. I did, however, see it as a sign.)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow, your mom’s brutal honesty. Ouch.

    I don’t envy my sons, I’m just thrilled that they are good at so many things, even if I’m not. But I felt like my mom was jealous of the closeness between my dad and me. He and I were very alike and got along beautifully, while they fought all the time. I found the jealousy mystifying when I was young, but after reading April’s comment I see it from my mother’s side now. It must have been really painful to feel that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Maybe you missed your calling, and should have been a psychiatrist, VD. So I will confide in you my mommy issues. I really do suspect she has been envious of all her children. I’ve learned to hide my successes from her, as I suspect she tries to sabotage her kids. Her basic strategy is to live lavishly while spending all her money and going deep into debt. Then she claims poverty and asks her kids for financial help. I suspect she wants to drag us down into poverty with her, and ruin our retirements so that we won’t be better off than her.

    My only child (a stepdaughter) is dead. But while she was living I always wanted the best for her, and found myself in perpetual frustration trying to steer her into making better choices. There’s no way I would have ever sabotaged her. Besides, she was her own saboteur. I would have felt very delighted had she found more success than me. So I am not like my mother, or your mother. Maybe I just don’t have that level of cruelty in me.

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  21. Your ability (and willingness, I might add) to provide more for your children than your parents did is a blessing. It’s also what most responsible parents DO. They WANT to provide more so that their kids can have a better life than they did. That’s just good parenting. 🙂

    That said, I do have to admit that I’ve had similar feelings about my son on occasion. I had to walk miles to school or work, for example–and he’s always been “delivered” door-to-door by my wife or me. He’s never had to suffer any of the physical or emotional abuses I had to suffer at the hands of my own family members or schoolmates. I also have to admit that my lovely wife (his mom) is by far, the best mom I’ve ever known or could possibly wish for for him. Sometimes I wonder how far I might have gone or what I might have accomplished if I’d had the same kind of love and support growing up!

    I’ve done a lot of soul-searching over the years, reflecting on much of the misery I experienced as a child. With parents who often either ignored me, shunned me, or punished me (quite unfairly, I might add) I’m proud that I could do better for my son. I’ve never raised a hand to him, I’ve supported his education and social growth by volunteering in school and scouting, and I’ve always been there for him–even at those times when he might not want me to be quite so available. 🙂

    I certainly can’t claim all the credit for it of course, but he’s grown up to be a fine young person–and I’m quite proud of him.

    My parents did the best they could, given the stresses of their own lives and upbringings, so I understand and have forgiven their “human-ness”. And believe it or not, I’ve actually become quite grateful for the many challenges I had to endure over the years. You see, they made me the person and the dad I am today. When I look at my son, I have a feeling he’ll be twice the dad I’ve been. And I think that’s a legacy to be proud of.

    So look at your kids with love…knowing that, one day, when they’re adults on their own, they’ll finally appreciate the many sacrifices you’ve made for them.

    They might even forgive you for some of your less inspired parenting practices (like those pesky little envious moments). I sure hope mine does…

    🙂

    Love Always,

    Stargazer

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Envy, What a cancerous growth that is. One brother has a farm in the country and a house in town, A sister has a mansion and a hard heart and I have lost all I owned to two broken marriages and yet I’m the only one in the family who talks to all of us. I’m the go between and they all envy me. I sure as hell don’t envy any of my four siblings.

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  23. As always, your honesty reaches out and grabs your readers by their souls. I never understood envy between parents and their children, until two things occurred. I married a man with 6 siblings, and seeing how jealously colored their relationships with each other horrified me. But then I realized, the parents had kind of pitted each child against the other, claiming one was ‘better, smarter, nicer, neater,’ etc than the other. What parent does that? And WHY?
    After I married my wonderful man, my relationship with my mom grew more and more difficult. She disliked my guy immensely, and made our life together difficult every time she visited. I love my mom, so I struggled with what was wrong with my man that she’d have such a reaction. Finally, a friend/minister/therapist (yes, all in one) explained to me: your mom is jealous of your happy marriage.
    Oh.
    It didn’t make our relationship any easier, but at least I understood. Envy is love-destroying.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. I envy my children the stability of their home life. I envy their security, in the knowledge that they have an entire family cheering them on, comforting their pains, having their backs. I envy their parents being married, their strong sibling relationships, their abundant pets. I am radically jealous of the benefits they must gain from these things, and wonder why I didn’t deserve that? What child doesn’t deserve that? I aim always to focus them on their privileges and blessings, but I’m certain at times I sound like a jealous cow.
    But I also revel in it. My heart could burst sometimes, from all the love I feel, from my gratitude and pride in providing some of that. The want of those things led me to provide it.

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  25. It’s always been there. Look at all those fairytales with evil stepmothers – the Wicked Queen is blatantly jealous of Snow White, for example. I think they’re stepmothers because it feels too uncomfortable to admit that parents are jealous of their kids. I’m mostly delighted that my daughter is growing up to be a beautiful young woman, but also a tiny bit jealous that, despite all my many, many good points, nobody is ever going to refer to me as young and beautiful again. The important thing is recognising the uncomfortable emotions, reflecting on them a little bit, accepting that they are part of the deal – after all, if we can’t try and give our kids a better childhood than we had, what can we do? – and not letting them get in the way of encouraging your child to blossom and grow.

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  26. I am an envious person too, although I hate myself for it! I sometimes get upset when I try so hard, yet fail to make an impression, yet others seem to do it effortlessly! I envy my daughter’s youth and vitality too sometimes! 🙂

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  27. A delightful twist at the end, Doc.
    “I wonder how many?”… I believe the answer would be “All” if any honest introspection was involved. Most people can’t look at themselves like that.
    And I don’t blame you about the cheer leading. “mrgreen” Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Such a wonderful, honest post. I’ve never been envious of my children. They didn’t have it all that much easier than I did, even how their lives are harder than I’d like them to be. Not at all how I had hoped it would be. There are others that showed no appreciation for all the gifts that seemed to land on their doorstep that bothered me the most. I always think that if I’d had the kind of parents that loved us, life and choices would have been different. I had next to nothing to work with and my children only a little more. But I would not trade my life for anyone else. If you look behind their curtain, it’s not always pretty there either.

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  29. I’m jealous of your daughter’s glitter pen collection too, and I have never laid eyes on it. 😉 My mom was the opposite of your mom. My mom had nothing growing up with ten brothers and sisters. She only ever wore hand me downs and she hated it. I love hand me downs, but I also have other options. We always had to have name brand things growing up because that’s what she wanted. Name brands never meant anything to me, that was all her. I wanted her affection and my mother was not a hugger. I think maybe that’s why I rubbed the skin off my kids when they were little? Don’t be scared, that’s my dramatic way of saying they were always being hugged or kissed. I always say that whatever you over give your kids is what you feel you lacked growing up. Just a thought..,

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  30. Ah, those seven deadly sins! I was certainly envious of my mother’s beauty and Derring-do. Envy and jealousy are just part of the human condition. It is only important that you recognize it and then change it to admiration or love…eventually! 😁

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  31. Thank you for sharing. One thing which I used to envy about the girls of these days were ‘ sanitary napkins’ :)) In my day we used to use cotton cloth and it was such a punishment to wash them clean. Those days were so difficult. We started getting sanitary napkins much later. Life is easy for the younger generation 🙂

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  32. I always tell people that you are not responsible for what you feel, but you are responsible for what you do with it. It sounds like your mother chose to let her jealousy bar you from doing something you really wanted, and that’s when jealousy turns into selfishness. That’s wildly unfair, and you had every right to judge her harshly. Even though you may be jealous of your children, it doesn’t seem like you’re keeping them from doing the things you’re jealous of them for. I know I get jealous when my writer friends talk about their publishing successes, because I’m as yet unpublished, but I still congratulate them. I used to try to push the jealousy aside, but that didn’t make it go anywhere, and when I examined why I have it, it makes perfect sense. I don’t use it to treat my friends poorly, and I’ve found that both envy and vicarious happiness can exist side by side 🙂

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  34. I think I’m more worried that I might get envious than actually envious. If I envy my son anything it’s when he displays similar abilities to me and says he’s better at them, than I am, I get irritated, which is probably envy of a sort, because when he grows up he probably will be a better at them than me. When it comes to music lessons etc, I had those but my son doesn’t seem to want them, and while he is very musical and I want him to have the opportunity, I also want to avoid forcing him and putting him off for life.

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  35. Are we jealous of our kids? Or are we reproducing other (learnt) behaviours?
    On the contrary, I am proud of what our daughters have achieved. On their own personally chosen paths.
    I disagree with daughter #2 on Foucauld and many other issues, but it’s all right.
    Let me put it this way: as parents we are under the obligation to help/push/shove our children into the best path of their choice. And that is what you are doing. I don’t really believe you are jealous of them, or if you really are, recognize that feeling is passed on by your mother. And deal with it. 🙂
    You are a brilliant, humane doctor and mother, and person. Here’s a tip: piano is one thing you’ve missed? Take lessons with your kids. You will be surprised. 🙂
    (I had piano lessons. Forgot everything, than had my daughters learn the piano, and sat down to learn again. Forgot it again and I’m seriously considering teaching myself again. Grandson already loves “playing” the piano we’ve kept. He will take lessons)
    Be good Doc. Love your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do think it is a learned thing from my own mother to a large degree, you are right. I also learned piano from my mother. She was quite good at it and so she was my “teacher”. I feel like I am taking piano lessons all over again with my kids, having to supervise their practice times.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is fabulous. I didn’t know you learned music from your mother. That, I think makes it even more valuable to “play” with your kids. A bond stretching three generations. (Where did I put my sheet music, need to get back on it) 🙂
        Thank you for this “detail”. I really enjoyed it.

        Liked by 1 person

  36. Oh boy…this hit a nerve…

    I get so jealous and frustrated when I see them skip opportunities and advantages that I would have JUMPED AT!!! Colleges visiting the high school, scholarship applications galore, a plethora of clubs to join, a car to drive (neither teen is interested in a license!), and jobs!! Paying JOBS!!!

    My parents got divorced just before I entered high school. I had to come straight home from school because I had to take the bus home and start dinner every night — no after school activities for me. No one in my family went to college until I did in my 40s so it was not even talked about when I was a kid.

    I see so much potential — which makes me very proud of my kids! Then I see it wasted — and I want to snap!!!

    thanks for giving me permission to feel this way……..”tears”

    Liked by 1 person

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