The Envious Parent

Envy. You want what someone else has. But it’s different than jealousy – when you worry about someone taking what you have. Both, however, are counterproductive emotions. Just like anger.

Parents – like me and thousands of others – know envy too well. And the accompanying heartache. That’s because we deal with the devastating effects of early trauma and FASD each day. That’s because we live on the front lines every hour.

But today I’m not talking about children but us parents – and the envy we feel from time to time in watching other families’ children succeed.

Moms and Dads notice their kids as they should – then cheer. Sometimes they gloat. Sometimes they act practically perfect while their children make the attempt look easy. Sometimes they make us feel inadequate – often by not saying a word.

Body language will do that.

Blamed and shamed by a world that hasn’t walked in our shoes. If only you did….    

Gene Wilder

Certain times of year are worse for us than others. Holidays. Birthdays. High School Graduations. Even milestones like driver’s licenses, proms or colleges acceptance letters can arouse our envy.

No doubt, social media has added another opportunity for envy. 

Our kids fall usually short. Occasionally overcoming the odds against them.

At first I wasn’t the least bit envious. I used peer accomplishments to set reasonable expectations for my six elementary school-aged children. Yet ordinary achievements became increasingly unobtainable.

Nevertheless, I applauded other children’s efforts. Hanging onto hope. Trying harder at home. Refusing to be embarrassed or marginalized.

By anyone.  

Soon I lowered the bar and celebrated victories on our terms. Not comparing my children to the masses. Measuring success one step at a time. Learning and evaluating along the way – to better prepare for the next go.

Never giving up!  

Over time my resilience grew deeper – which I welcomed. I didn’t hesitate to talk to other parents and established rapport. Eventually they spilled the beans. Life at their homes wasn’t perfect in any sense of the word. They just did a better job of keeping their challenges more private than mine.

Meltdowns in public, school suspensions, in-patient hospitalizations, and police runs can be difficult to hide.

Yet I also knew my limits. Immersing myself among other “ordinary” families for hours on end was a recipe of emotional overload. I’m human after all. I can only digest so much praise for someone else’s star child.

Without question, “extraordinary” families need safe places to call their own. Home. Perhaps church. Like-minded community organizations. Special neighbors. Extended families members – who get it.

Sadly, the feeling of envy lies right under the surface – waiting to emerge.

Andrew sportsmanship

Earlier this month I spent two weeks away from home with several of my children while my son Andrew competed in the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.

On one hand, I took immense pride in his accomplishments on and off the track. His diligent training, six days a week for the past four years, came to fruition with four medals. More impressively, he displayed sportsmanship rarely seen in professional athletes – which several ESPN commentators duly noted on air and in the ESPN documentary below.

Andrew Peterson ESPN 14-minute documentary

On the other, I felt a tinge of envy when visiting college friends.

Their houses weren’t just clean but seemingly spotless. No broken furniture. No visible damage to repair. No patched holes in the walls that never matches the original texture.

They had traveled extensively with no worry of over-stimulated children.

And they had time on their hands. Time to make exquisite meals. Time to exercise. Time to self-indulge in hobbies. Time to unwind with no fear of a meltdown – which I was forced to handle more than once away from home.

Truth be known, my life over the past 20 years has little in common with theirs. And I’m entirely comfortable with that – after years of reflecting and putting envy in its proper place.

Upon flying home to Indiana, my children and I were ready. We returned to our routine. We welcomed the predictable chaos. We thrived in the consistency.  

Other families might be envious. DCP

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Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE

To follow Craig’s journey in raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love

To follow my son Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page Andrew Peterson Athlete and Advocate

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