I am not proud of what I’m about to say here. But this is about as honest as it gets…
I turned down a social invitation for tonight. And I flat out lied about why we couldn’t make it. Mark is not thrilled. I didn’t even bother to ask him before I turned it down. What is wrong with me?
The invitation came from one of the couples with whom we go on our annual Bayfield, Wisconsin vacation. They are such nice people and I really like them. She called to ask if we wanted to come over tonight and watch the Gopher football game and then go to the fall festival at my church. I don’t like football much, but will watch the high school games because my friends’ kids play and I want to support them. I might watch the Superbowl. But I have to draw the line at college football. I just don’t feel like trying to fake it tonight. And as far as the festival, we rarely attend mass at my church anymore, so I’d rather avoid it altogether. I don’t need to deal with all those familiar faces asking why they never see us in church anymore.
But that’s not even why I declined the invitation.
I declined it because the invitation came from the people with the perfect kids. And the gathering will surely include other friends who also have perfect kids. And somehow, I feel like I fall short in their company.
I know, I know. No one has perfect kids. This is my own issue and none of them have done a thing to intentionally make me feel like they were making comparisons or judging. They are all wonderful people and great friends and I love all of their kids. This is not about them. It’s about me. It’s just that sometimes I get in a funk and I torment myself with this stupidity.
You see, all of the couples that comprise this little group of Bayfield friends have kids who are academically, athletically, socially or otherwise gifted. And all of them have kids of very similar ages to my kids. It’s inevitable that we will talk about kids! And sometimes I can’t take it! Sometimes I feel like I’ve failed when I’m around them.
In particular, one of these kids, who is Jake’s age, is one who was very active in all aspects of high school. He’s confident and loves life. He has a huge circle of friends. He is self motivated. He’s smart. He got into a good school and couldn’t wait to start college. He loves to socialize. He’s always got something going on and everyone knows and likes him. He is a great kid! He is taking life by storm!
So what’s the problem? The problem is that I look at my kid, who I love dearly for who he is and what he is about. He is unique and I get him and think he’s awesome. But…
He struggled just to make it through high school. He hasn’t gone off to college yet, though almost everyone else his age has. He thinks he’ll start some classes during winter semester at the local community college, but he’s done nothing to get the ball rolling. (I need to get on him and help make that happen.) He has a small circle of friends. He’s an introvert and never had a desire to hang out in a large crowd. He was never a social butterfly. He is athletic, but never earned one of those glory spots on a varsity team. He’s a major homebody. He marches to the beat of a different drum and he’s comfortable where he’s at. It doesn’t usually bother me, because it clearly does not bother him. But when I start hearing all those stories about the other kids whose lives followed the tried and true path, I start to second guess myself. I start getting those feelings of failure and doubt; the same ones I felt every time Jake struggled with school throughout the years and no matter what I did, I couldn’t fix his problems. I start to tell myself that it isn’t fair that Jake faced all the hurdles he faced. I wonder why his school years couldn’t have been more “normal.”
Mostly, I hate the questions asking where he is going to school. And I hate that when I say, “He’s taking a semester off and hoping to go to the community college this winter,” that it’s inevitable I’ll get a response along the lines of, “That’s ok. Four year colleges aren’t for everyone.” I know they mean well, but I don’t need to be reassured that it’s ok. They have no idea how relieved we were to just get this kid through to his high school graduation. That’s a given for most people. Most parents don’t have to worry whether or not it will actually happen. I hate that we had to worry about that!
I don’t know why I allow myself to feel this way. I know, deep down, that we have been very, very lucky with our kids. They are good kids and don’t give us much reason to worry. Hell…my friend Shannon’s thirteen year old daughter was born with Spina Bifida. She faces challenges on a daily basis that most of us would never imagine. What am I complaining about? I just can’t help it sometimes. I find it hard not to make the comparisons when I’m listening to my friends proudly (and rightfully) boast of their kids’ accomplishments. Every one of us parents had a vision of our kids’ lives when they were born, and we probably all envisioned something close to perfect. We all hoped for normal and relatively easy journeys for our children. Even though we know that’s not always how the world works, no one ever dreams of a path filled with pitfalls and difficulties, anger, tears and frustration upon frustration. Maybe that’s my problem. I’m still stuck on what I thought should have been instead of dealing with what is.
I know this is monumentally selfish of me to feel this way. Am I crazy to let this get to me so much at times that I refuse an opportunity to spend time with people I like just because I can’t turn off the negative and pitiful thoughts? Does anyone else ever feel this way???