Jealousy Thy Name is Parent

Posted on October 23, 2012


If there’s one thing I like about being a parent, that wouldn’t be much of a recommendation for parenthood, would it? But if there’s one thing I like, it’s taking joy in the achievements of my children as an emotional substitute for my own lack of accomplishments.

I’m not the first parent to make this discovery. Parents have long enjoyed shirking the emotional burden of their own failures by projecting their failed ambitions onto the next generation.

We spend a lot of our lives talking about all the things we want to do, and only a small part of our lives doing the things we talk about, because it’s much easier to talk than to do. They say talk is cheap. I’m not sure who said it because apparently he was too cheap to get the saying copyrighted, but the point remains. Then as parents we make the satisfying discovery:

Talking about doing: Easy

Doing: Hard

Talking about our kids doing: Easy

Making kids do: Medium degree of difficulty but remarkably easier than doing ourselves

I’m not the type to put direct pressure on my children to achieve. I prefer to create an atmosphere of competition in which my children’s accomplishments will always seem to pale in comparison to what I had achieved at the same age.

“How old are you again?”


“Is that all? When I was your age I was already twelve.”

This is all part of a complex strategy to set the finish line further and further in the distance so they race harder and surpass all my accomplishments at a younger age. I’m projecting by 21 years of age they’ll achieve the level of handsomeness I didn’t reach until 34.

Apparently this strategy is working because our 11-year-old Optimist Prime has recently enjoyed a remarkable string of success. He’s quarterback of his football team, was recently cast in the lead role of a semi-professional theater company, and he’s been singled out for academic achievement.

One part of me is proud of him as a parent. The other part of me is insanely jealous. He’s achieving at a much higher rate of success than I’d anticipated and he’s already much more successful than I was at 11. Or 12. Or 16. Actually, he’s much more successful than I am at 34.

I told my wife, “It’s not fair. I didn’t have that kind of success at 11!”

 She replied, “I did. He must get it from me then.”

Now I resent both of them.

He even has his first girlfriend, and she speaks three languages—two more languages than any of my elementary school girlfriends could speak!

Also, he’s a model and makes more money in one afternoon hanging out with attractive people than I made in three months as a kid delivering papers to ugly people!

I just turned 34 and I told my wife it’s probably time to kick the jealousy habit. She said, “Are you still doing that? I kicked that habit at 26.”

If I can kick the habit at 34, I can only hope OP can’t kick it until 35.

Posted in: Family