There are not many occasions for me to be jealous of my children. I can read better, write better, think better, reason better, speak better, drive, cook, order things online… and they can’t. There are so many aspects of being young (and don’t even get me started on adolescence and the teen years and those dreaded twenties) that I don’t wish to revisit and that I hope to be able to guide my children through relatively painlessly while still letting them learn their own lessons in their own way and in their own time. But, as I watched them this past week, two themes kept recurring: pure joy and jealousy.
My mind has been on so many personal and worldwide problems in the past few days that I’m not sure I have been as present as I’d like to be; because of that, I tried to be very cognizant of those moments that I was playing with the trains and turtles but caught my mind wandering to other issues. When I felt that happening, I forced myself to snap back to reality and truly observe my children for a few seconds before rejoining the fun. I saw such innocence, such naiveté, such purity, and it helped me to relax and enjoy the moments with them even more. But, it always was followed up with a pang of jealousy.
And, there was some guilt attached to those moments as well. I think I’m having trouble coming to terms with the paradox that exists: catastrophic world events took place this past week, and I keep seeing the images on television and in my newsfeed that I have no words to describe, yet my family is able to play inside and outside with barely a thought to our safety. I did not spend one minute playing with my boys this week without thinking about how fortunate we are to live where we live and how we live. And, yes, there is guilt associated with that, whether there should be or not.
Yesterday, my husband and I took our two year old for lunch. The biggest problem we had was that he played with his train a little too roughly and knocked it onto the floor a few times. It clattered very loudly and I was afraid we may have been disrupting our fellow diners. When my husband returned to the table after paying the bill, he set down some dinner mints in front of our son. His face lit up and he breathed, “Oh, wow!” That was all it took. Four mints. Pure joy.
Last night, our five year old spent the night with my parents. When we met up with them today, I took him aside and told him some of the things that we had done while he was away having the time of his life. When I told him that I had homemade chocolate chip cookies waiting in the cookie jar for him, he threw his arms around me and said, “Thanks, Mom!” A huge smile and a hug, and then he ran off to jump back into the pool. All because I spent an hour making cookies. Pure joy.
At that same pool, our two year old was continuing to learn to swim with the help of one of the best kid’s swimming aids I have ever seen. We stayed within arm’s reach of him, but he truly was swimming all over the pool without needing our help (unless the big kid jumped in and made a few waves that ended up in his nose or mouth), and we encouraged his cautious independence. He swam over to the sliding board, put his head directly under the waterfall that spills over its edge, and screamed with delight. He threw his head back and laughed. Pure joy.
I could go on and on about all of the moments that made my boys light up and smile and laugh and hug and kiss over the past few days. We don’t get to spend every minute of every day together, but the time that we do get to spend together is precious. As the adult, I am very aware of the fact that we may not always have this time together. But, I need to get better at balancing my worries about everything else with spending time joyously with my family. Right now, my boys just get to have fun and play and laugh and learn; I realize that’s as it should be. I will bask in their joy as long as I can. But, I’m still jealous of their ignorance. What the Hell?