I was eating dinner in a restaurant with my husband and I ordered the salmon. When my salmon came, I saw the chicken dish that was delivered to the person at the next table and I mumbled, “I should have ordered that.”
“You have food envy,” my husband said.
He was right. I should have been happy with my salmon but instead I craved the chicken.
I bring this up to let you know that, while I can’t deny that I am often thinking that the food another person ordered was the way to go, I thought this envy was isolated to this one culinary area. So I surprised myself when I began to sense that this feeling was brewing in another corner of my life.
At first I couldn’t understand why, even though I have three great young adult children, when I look at the friends around me who are buying Paw Patrol and American Girl Dolls for the grandkids, a familiar feeling welled up inside me that I associated with eyeing someone else’s chicken Milanese . Then it hit me—There’s no doubt about it—I have grandmother envy.
This is a recent occurrence. My friends have been becoming grandparents over many years and I’ve secretly thought, that’s nice for them but I’m still putting the finishing touches on my own children. I don’t need to start all over again. Isn’t this my time to focus on me and not deal with the inconvenience of adjusting my life to someone else? And, besides, I’ve inherited a granddog from one of my kids and that seemed responsibility enough. But one day, after spending an afternoon with one of my friends, reading and singing to her truly delicious toddler grandson, I came home and found that I couldn’t get my dog to sit still long enough to hear one round of me singing The Wheels On The Bus. I had to admit that I might be ready for this next chapter. And that’s when grandmother envy really kicked in.
There are other signs that hint at my grandma envy. When yet another friend tells me that they are about to become a first time grandmother, I ask “what do you want to be called?” I take mental notes and stash away some of the good ones for my future use. I like the French pronunciation of Grandmama with the accent on the second “ma” until I walk by a mirror in my sweatpants and tee shirt and know this particular appellation was not meant for me. I find myself leaning over baby carriages and cooing over a stranger’s infant. I make funny faces to babies slung over their mothers’ shoulders in the supermarket. I hear my friends rhapsodize about their grandchildren and there is a look in their eyes that is reserved for that special relationship and I vicariously share in their delight. When I call one of my friends on a Saturday morning to see if they want to grab lunch and they tell me that they’re baby sitting for their grandchild or taking them to the latest Lego movie, I have to admit to myself that I’m ready to be “inconvenienced” all over again.
With my own children, I was on call 24/7 and the consequences of everything I did and said seemed so monumental. The joy and passion of motherhood was mixed with an equal amount of stress and self-doubt. But recently I visited with my friend and her little grandson at her daughter’s house. We got to roll around on the floor playing with his trucks, play peek a boo until he thought I was the funniest person he ever met, and sneak cookies to him before he ate lunch. Then when he got tired and cranky we handed him back to his mom while my friend and I went out for lattes. In some ways, it’s so much easier than parenting. Grandparents get to be the perennial good cop.
But I’m not delusional…I may have micromanaged my children’s lives a bit too much and for a bit too long, but even I know that whether or not I become a grandmother is not under my control. I admit I toss an occasional hint their way like putting framed pictures of my friends’ grandchildren around my house or buying a cashmere baby blanket and assuring them that it can be used as a throw for the dog.
But other than that I tell them that I will be fine never experiencing the joy that I see in the eyes of my friends who have grandchildren. I hope this relieves them of any guilt they may feel sending me to the grave without knowing that particular kind of love that seems out of reach to me, at least while I can still remember how to Instagram pictures of them.
Right now my children are on their own wonderful paths and I acknowledge that for the moment babies don’t seem the best idea for any of them. And truly that’s just fine. For now, I am content with the salmon and if it’s salmon for the rest of my life, I’ll still consider myself very lucky. But if life manages to slip in a piece of chicken, I’ll be excited to try that too.