It's not that I want to have their toys -- I want to have their life.
I have a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old and, not to brag, my kids have a kick-ass life. All-cotton pajamas, French toast with fresh orange juice for breakfast pretty much whenever they want, more books than they could ever read in a year or even three, shelves plastered with SpongeBob stickers spilling over with Pok?mon figures and Bakugan balls, and all the hugs and kisses they could ever want from adults who love them madly.
It's not just a good life; it's an enviable one. I should know because I do. Envy them, that is. I'd guesstimate that at least once a month I find myself thinking some variation of: "Gee, I wouldn't mind having someone fluff my eggs in the morning and my pillows at night." And I sure wish someone would read me stories of hope, adventure, and happy endings that I still believed to be true.
To be honest, it's not like my children are the first people I've wished that I could trade places with. If jealousy is in your monogrammed box of character defects, it doesn't just show up after you've had a few healthy, middle-class kids. In the past, when the green-eyed monster has reared its head, I've found that the best way to quell those icky feelings is to spin out my "what if" fantasy to its logical end. For example, "what if" I really were that 6-foot-tall supermodel who could sit at a bar guiltlessly eating chips while handsome suitors sent me drinks? Actually, that was a daydream of mine until I became friends with a girl like that. It turned out that it took her two hours of grooming just to be supermarket-shopping-ready. Not so fun after all. I thought I was cured.
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Until recently. It started harmlessly enough when my kids were stuffing down handfuls of Goldfish in between gales of laughter while watching Ice Age: The Meltdown. By contrast, I was on my hands and knees scurrying around trying to stay ahead of the orange crumbs cascading to the floor. This triggered one of my green moments -- and I don't mean an impulse to recycle.
As I picked up the bits, I let my imagination run wild. I decided that 4 is the age I'd like to be. I'd be out of diapers, so I wouldn't have to walk around in my own pee or worse, but I'd still not be expected to know things like reading and math. Life would be one long playdate interrupted only by delicious food and plentiful sleep. In fact, the more I slept the more beloved I'd be. "Little Dani slept 11 hours last night!" my mommy would boast. "Who's the best sleeper?" my mommy would ask me rhetorically. Then, to reward me she'd give me a big handful of animal crackers. I wouldn't have to slap her hand away as if she was passing me a cyanide torch. I wouldn't have to scream, "I can't eat handfuls of animal crackers! Do you know how many carbs are in those things?" Nope. I'd just think, "Cool. I love cookies."
When thirsty, I could give one-word commands. "Water!" I'd yell, say from the backseat of the car. And immediately someone bigger than me would rummage around and voil?! A bottle of water! Every once in a while Mommy or Daddy might try to make helpful suggestions like, "Stop hitting your brother." Or "Underwear is for your tushy, not your head; that's not funny." But it's not like they'd expect to give me feedback only once, so I wouldn't have to stop doing anything right away.
Sleeping, eating, playing with brightly colored objects until I lose interest, and crying when I was being denied something... As a 4-year-old, I'd pretty much be living the life of a movie star without the nuisance of working hard or being famous!
But my 3-year-old's scream snaps me back to reality. The poor guy mistook his finger for a Goldfish, and now he's holding it out for me to kiss. It reminds me of what a bummer it would be if I actually were either of my sons. After all, there's no way I would ever fully appreciate the silkiness of my hair -- it would just be sitting on top of my head. I'd never know the sweetness of my breath when I fell asleep somewhere and needed to be carried to bed. And not only that, jealousy would still be lurking. When my little brother sat on Mommy's lap too long, or the kid at the playground who runs faster than me got all the attention, I'm sure that feeling would bubble up.
Now that I think about it, living through life's painful lessons again sounds excruciating. On the other hand, loving my two sons as they go through all the drama and angst of growing up feels like something I am uniquely qualified to do. I look forward to telling them what a waste of time it is to entertain the green-eyed monster. And that the best way to make him go away is to focus on the things you've been given. And how it helps to pick all the cookie-dough clumps out of the cookie-dough ice cream until you feel better.