I’m jealous of my friends.
Not of their pools, tropical vacations, or decks that don’t have raccoons living under them. Well, actually yes, I am jealous of those things, too. I don’t claim to be a saint. I like drinks with umbrellas in them and backyard barbeques that don’t require a tetanus shot as much as the next girl. But that’s not what this is about.
I feel envy every time someone says that her kids are getting easier to raise. When she and her husband are spotted at the store alone because they were able to leave their kids at home for a couple of hours. When she can do something simple like weed the garden without abandoning it five minutes in, to follow her child back into the house.
I’m jealous that the only stack of paperwork she fills out for her child is for rep hockey, not for evaluations and treatments by doctors and therapists. I see her daughter’s hair perfectly neat on picture day and wish my daughter would tolerate a haircut or even proper brushing.
I want to have carpets that have less popcorn on them than a movie theater. Or to go for a walk with my child without a knot in my stomach wondering if she’ll run into the street again without warning. Will today be the day I’m not fast enough?
These moments of wanting what other parents have are something I am not proud of, and I only let the comparisons surface in my mind from time to time. Honestly I am too busy vacuuming up snacks and securing door locks to think about it much anyway.
But the real source of jealousy that lurks in my mind, like a monster in the closet, is about the future.
My oldest child is eleven and the twins are nine now and people have started making comments about how before we know it we’ll have an empty house. They assure me that my house will be neat soon enough, and they ask me about our travel plans once we are on our own.
I even get caught up in that fantasy on the hard days. I’ve sketched many a home gym in my mind, and mapped out a European vacation itinerary that in no way resembles that of the National Lampoon excursion.
But the bubble pops and I remember that we probably won’t ever have an empty house. My nine year-old daughter has Autism and in many ways functions like a two year-old. She lacks impulse control and safety awareness. She will not communicate with people unless they are standing between her and the bag of chips or they know the WiFi password. She has all the business and destructiveness of a toddler combined with the strength and sheer will of the leader of a riot squad.
As much as I would like to cling to hope, I can’t envision her living on her own or walking down the aisle. And that makes me envy my friends who still have those plans in their “likely” file.
But then Maggie flashes me her genuine, beautiful smile. Or laughs her from-the-soul giggles. She climbs in my lap and covers me in kisses.
That’s when I realize that I am the one to be envied. Maggie demands a close eye, which means that I have the privilege of spending a lot of time with her. Also, my house will long be filled with the joy and love of a beautiful daughter who will always be my little girl.
Nothing can compete with that.
For the YMC Voices of Motherhood 2015 contest, we asked mothers from all over Canada to submit their story based on the theme “Stages of Motherhood: Past, Present, or Future.”
We received over 100 thought provoking stories that made us laugh, cry, and nod our heads in agreement. Our judges had their work cut out for them to narrow it down to the Top 10.