A Boomer’s Point-of-View: Envy of Other Parent’s Kids #DadChat

Category: A Boomer's Point-of-View, Weekly Columns

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Who hasn’t heard the glowing stories from another parent extolling the accomplishments of his or her kid(s)? Who hasn’t thought that they wished they had such stories to tell? Well, I think it’s like Joseph Telushkin’s mom said about so-called happy people, “The only happy people I know are people I don’t know very well.” Wiser words have rarely been uttered.

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I’ve gone through perhaps one of the roughest years of my life and most certainly my parenting (life). All the details are personal and irrelevant to the content of this column.

We moved to Park City and that, alone, was enough stress for any single year. Upon arrival, we were invited to a small dinner get together with two other couples that live in our development. I was worn out and truly not in a social mood but I went anyway and endured the boasting, cheerfulness, and general “show” that was put on by one couple in particular.

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Their two super-kids (now young adults) were taking on the world. In addition to running the first 3-minute mile, one or the other had achieved a 5.5 grade point average, became the youngest mayor for our city, and both were healthy, in good relationships, and lived nearby. They even remembered their parents’ birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day! Handcrafted cards with lengthy letters – hand-written of course – accompanied thoughtful gifts that were exactly what mom and dad wanted. Oh, and both were completely financially independent.

Truly, the description above is only a slight exaggeration.

I couldn’t help but feel envious. I couldn’t help but feel “less than.” My mind shouted that my boys’ story was far from over and NO ONE knows what will be (in the future).

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My wife is step-mom to my boys, loves them, but I don’t believe her connection is as deep, though I sincerely believe her love and care is equal to mine. She didn’t have the same reaction to the other parent’s testimonies about their darling, perfect children.

Dennis Prager has often said that he wished couples would actually tell the truth when getting together with other couples. He wishes that if one couple had a fight before seeing another couple, that they would share the details of that fight. More often than not, he suggests, the other couple would share insight into a similar issue/problem in their marriage and both couples would be the better for it.

Instead, we tend to put on a happy face when seeing others. We save the reality for behind closed doors or for our dearest, most intimate friends and relatives.

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I’m a bit of an open book when with good friends. I don’t like to whine and complain regularly because, as my mother often said, no one wants to be around someone who is negative (all the time). But, if something serious is going on in my life, I want feedback and ideas/help that might not occur to me in the heat of a crisis.

Life is a roller coaster which I’ve experienced with extreme highs and lows this year. At this moment, the majority of the problems that arose this year seem to have diminished in intensity. I’m fond of saying, “This too shall pass,” when things are going good. It is often used when things are difficult yet I’ve lived enough of life to be very clear that the good times can be as fleeting as the bad ones. The good times seem to pass faster; while in the midst of trouble, time crawls to a standstill.

This comparison game begins shortly after birth, when parents compare the weight and height of their newborns. Doctors continue this process with charts that show parents the percentile of their children’s growth and weight. We all take pride when our kids first walk, are potty trained, and utter “Daddy” or “Mommy.”

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Upon entrance to pre-school and elementary school, these comparisons accelerate with sports and achievement in class. The “everyone wins a trophy” contemporary nonsense somewhat mitigates this with obiouvs false-achievement but EVERY parent knows the truth of that silly development in primary schools and sports teams. There is ONLY one “most improved” player and only ONE batting-average champion. Delaying this reality only hurts our children since we ALL learn more from failure and disappointment than from easy success and especially dishonest success.

Nonetheless, other parents will boast and crow about their kid’s achievements. It’s impossible for most parents not to react inside with envy if/when they know their child is not on par with this boasting. We put on a big smile of “way to go” to the other parent as if they were the primary architect of that success.

It’s foolish to envy others in any way, shape, or form. We all have our lives to live and we all don’t know where the journey will end. Enjoy the ride…

  • David Weber

    ( I submitted a comment earlier today, but I guess it didn’t upload. )

    I think these are very good points. I would not necessarily say envy is foolish; if it leads to some kind of resourceful action, it has something to be said for it.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @disqus_dU5ulU60s7:disqus – I think that productive action from envy is rare, DW.

  • jack43

    I’m going to take the liberty of turning your discussion on its head and talk about how the friends of my brother and I envied us for our father. Our father was a real man’s man, the kind you would want at your back in a fight (he had been a successful professional heavyweight fighter), the kind of man you wanted living next door in case of any kind of trouble (he’d gladly fix anything without even expecting thanks). Meanwhile we were screaming in our heads, “Can’t you see what a somuvabitch he is!” No, they couldn’t. Our father never passed up an opportunity to compliment other children and then take a backhanded swipe at us for failing to meet such standards. And his abused knew no bounds. He practiced every form: Physical, mental, and emotional. To be honest, I never thought that he envied other people their children. He merely hated his own as competitors for his wife’s affections. Then again, maybe he simply envied us…

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @jack43:disqus – you shared a sadly familiar story in so many families. So often adults put on a front of happiness…