I can’t stand it when my kids envy each other. I really don’t get it. To me, it’s like fingernails being pulled down a chalkboard. Yeeouch!
Here’s the deal. My kids go to different schools. At first, we had innocent and interesting comparisons:
“Your school has ‘Wordly Wise’? Our school doesn’t have that.”
“Your school has a handwriting competition? Mine doesn’t.”
“Your school has a chess garden? Ours doesn’t.”
“My school has a way better Fun Fair than yours.”
And so on.
Over time, that friendly competition has intensified to the point where one day I said, “Okay, that’s it! I’ve had enough. From this day forward there will be no more comparisons between your schools. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Just leave it at that and find something else (anything else!) to discuss.”
That worked pretty well for several months.
Then today, as we’re eating dinner, I asked the question I ask daily, “Tell me three good things that happened in your day today.” My daughter proudly announced, “Well, all the SCA kids had a pizza party with sodas and Fritos and Doritos. It was really fun!” My son angrily replied, “YOUR SCA had a PIZZA PARTY?” Our SCA didn’t have a pizza party!” DD came back with, “Oh really? What did yours have?” Then DS grumbled, “Nothing.”
Prepare for the lecture, kids.
Off I went, “Let me tell you something about my philosophy of life. There are two paths we can choose in life and it always comes down to a choice — our own individual choice.”
“There are folks who believe in a concept called scarcity. Can anyone tell me what you think that might be?” DD straightened up in her chair and replied, “Oh yes. It’s probably when there’s not enough of something.”
“Right. Well, folks who believe in the scarcity principle think that there’s only so much of anything in the world, so if Mr. X gets a new car, Mr. Y is less likely to get one. Or Johnny gets all As, so Sally thinks that her getting that one B is somehow due to Johnny’s As. That kind of attitude prevents people from feeling sincerely happy for other people’s good fortune.”
“It’s the same kind of negativity that leads people down a sort of ‘Dark Side’ path like Anakin in “Star Wars” where he’s filled with anger, bitterness, regret, revenge, and hatred.”
“Now, on the other hand, some people believe in abundance. Who can tell me what they think that is?” I asked.
DD said, “When there’s enough.”
“Right. When people believe that what one person gets really has no bearing on what other people get. I mean, they can get it, too. Maybe not right then, maybe not the same way or at the same time, but eventually they could certainly have the same kind of goodness come into their lives. Or maybe they could see goodness in their lives in a completely different way, but it’s there, if they just look for it and choose to focus on it.”
“That path, as you might expect, is also the path of joy, kindness, compassion, love, happiness, and faith.”
“Which path you choose to travel down is up to you. Your choices determine your path. So, for example, tonight when your sister told you about her pizza party, what’s another way you could have chosen to respond to her?”
DS sheepishly responded, “Uh, good for you?”
“Well, something like that. Sure you might feel disappointed that you guys didn’t get a pizza party, but remember all those things you’ve mentioned about your school that you’re so glad your school has? Well, you could notice that pang of disappointment but then go to a place where you’re sincerely happy that she had fun at her pizza party. And if you need to draw on those great things your school has, remind yourself of them and let the pizza party slide off your back. Focus on her words, her experience, her happiness, and try to share in it with her. It will actually make you feel good. It’s your choice.”
I looked at my son and said, “Think about how you felt when you went right to that angry, envious place. You looked pretty mad. I’m sure you felt pretty angry, didn’t you? I doubt that felt good. Now you’re looking like you’re regretful and a little confused. My point is that, if you come across this kind of experience again in your life (and I guarantee you will), I hope you make a better choice. See this as an opportunity to learn, a touchstone to look back on to help you remember to make a different choice next time.”
You know, I think it’s easy to be a parent. You have a baby, you’re a parent.
But it’s hard, incredibly hard, to be a GOOD parent.