Mean Green

#07. “Never be jealous.” – Miyamoto, Musashi (Book of Five Rings)

At the first sign of envy, my mother sternly said to me, “Don’t be jealous!” To this day, she still pronounces it “gel-ASS” but like her “strage” for storage and “turn reft at the right and make light at the corner,” it’s the message that counts – not a Shakespearean delivery.

At the time, it seemed unfair to expect a five-year old not to be jealous of her cute baby sister. Now, I see why. Jealousy and envy breed uncontrollably – like cockroaches – it infests and causes nuisance and at it’s best, Stephen King stories. You have to squash it immediately.

With my mother, it was a constant reprimand, “Don be gel-ASS! Don be gel-ASS!” She was too busy looking after my baby sister to bother with my antics. “I’m not jealous,” I’d say, “my belly hurts,” or “I didn’t know it was aspirin,” or “I was just trying to make Flambe.”

She’d just give me that look of disgust, which I too mastered and put to full use during the years I managed a hair salon. It’s a look that says, “Don’t try to play me without serving cocktails first.”

Scares the shit out of people. Especially minors.

While it’s simple to demand, it’s not so easy to turn a jealous cheek. My two boys show me that all the time. Should I offer any kind of praise to their friends or classmates, my sons will whine, “You love him more than me!”

I feel like saying, “Don be gel-ASS!” but boys don’t respond to commands. You yell, “STOP,” and they’ll look back at you while they continue running forward and smack into a mailbox.

Unlike girls, boys not only have a hard time registering their feelings – they don’t want to talk about it either. Almost every time I ask a boy if they want to talk about what’s bothering them, they’ll respond, “No. I just wanna blow something up.” So you see why Minecraft is so popular.

Boys can’t see that praise and kindness given to other people doesn’t lessen the amount given to them. They think of affection like a pizza pie. You give a high five to a buddy and a thumbs up to a classmate and there goes two-eighths of his hugs! It might be a Common Core thing. But there’s a security thing, too. When you point out another child’s merit, you are unwittingly pointing out the shortcomings of your own.

So now, when I pay some kid a compliment, I’ll search my brain for a compliment to give my guy as well. It could go like, “Katie, congratulations on your perfect score. And Zuki – you remembered to bring home your lunch box everyday this week. That’s outstanding!”

Although my mother’s upbringing of not giving into jealousy got me over my jealousy of my sister – and of ex-girlfriends – and of people who have summer beach homes, I fear one day it’ll rear it’s ugly head again when my boys grow up and start dating sluts. Ooh, did I say that out loud?

Hopefully, my mother will still be around to slap some sense into me when the time comes. Though from experience, I’ve noticed that grandmothers are far more picky over their grandson’s partner than anyone else.

Perhaps it’ll be my turn to tell her not to be gel-ASS.

Don't be jealous - smile dammit!
Don’t be jealous – smile dammit!
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Even The Losers

There is nothing wrong with losing. A loss is like a mistake – they happen so we can learn from them. Duh. Of course with boys, or more like – my boys in particular, they’ll repeat the same mistake about fifty times before they have me wondering if they might possibly be insane.

When the boys were five and three, we used to play a memory game. The first to get the correct answer would get a point – five points to win a round. Although we played several rounds and there was no prize, neither of the boys could stand losing. The loser would throw a complete tantrum in the fashion of John McEnroe minus the tennis racquet, and entirely miss the point of the game, which was to exercise their feeble memory. They needed to learn how to cope with disappointment.

So I took them to Toys R Us, spent an hour there testing out a bunch of cool toys and didn’t buy them anything. Afterwards, we went to Dunkin’ Donuts and came out with nothing but an ice coffee for mommy. Nope – no donuts either.

It seemed like a reasonable plan to teach them that they don’t always get what they want. Ultimately, however, they learned that it’s better to go to Toys R Us with daddy – he’s a sucker. While to this day, they’re still rather sore losers. It’s all daddy’s fault.

At the Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby, my husband was so irate that nobody from our pack won anything that he rallied up all the other dads and determined that next year, we were doing our own derby race. “Screw them!” He yelled, as we gathered up our losing derby cars. Knowing that Samu would mimic his dad and say, “screw you,” instead of thank you on the way out, I told them right then and there that there was no way in Hell I would organize a Pinewood Derby race. Not without beer, anyway.

Honestly though, the boys weren’t upset, they knew it wasn’t all about winning. But daddy?

In the movie, Searching For Bobby Fischer, the chess coach (played by the tea horking Ben Kingsley) says a quotable line, “To put a child in a position to care about winning and not to prepare him is wrong.”

I should’ve listened to Gandhi and prepared the big guy. My bad. I’m not joking when I say he’s the biggest child in our house. There are times the three of them go at it – calling each other names, smacking heads, punching blubber and kicking each other’s butt, like literally – that I have yell, “Daddy! Really?”

In my opinion, girls are better at losing. I’d like to believe it’s because we’re patient, positive thinkers but the truth is, we’re scornful. We never forget, as opposed to boys and their single cell memory. Go ahead, ask a boy any question about school, what they did, what they ate, their mom’s name – and 80 percent of them will say, “I dunno.”

So given the resiliency of children, it’s befuddling to see parents protecting their kids from the pain of losing. You can’t lose without getting hurt. If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t worth it – not everyone can be happy. Not everyone can be the winner.

But what’s important to remember is, there’s a difference between being The loser and being A loser. And even those, get lucky sometimes.

 

Little child, Medium Child, Big child
Little child, Medium Child, Man child

 

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