“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.
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.