Like What You’ve Got, and Don’t Compare

For his birthday, Denisa and I got TRC a gaming mouse. It’s red and black and it lights up when you plug it in, and he was pretty much in love with it the moment he laid eyes on it. A highlight of his birthday celebrations. He put it to use as soon as he could, and he was overjoyed with how it worked so well. 6 buttons! Weights in the base so you could make it the ideal weight you liked! Optical! Great texture!

Last night he was talking all about how he was going to bring it to school today and show it off. “It isn’t wireless, though,” he said, a little apologetically. “Some of my friends think that wired mice are worse than wireless mice.” I reassured him that wired mice actually have a faster response time, and that he shouldn’t worry about things like that. He nodded. “Yeah.”

But why did I have a sinking sensation that logic and facts weren’t going to make much of a difference when it came time to Middle School debates?

After he had gone to bed, Denisa and I talked for a while about it. I said that I wished two things for TRC and his friends: first, that they’d be able to learn to like the things they had without needing other people to confirm that those things are good. Second, that they could learn to appreciate what others have without the need to put those things down so that they can feel good about what they have.

Denisa nodded, but then said, “Yeah. But since we’re still struggling with that as grown ups, I don’t know how easy it’s going to be for them.”

And she’s right. Do we ever really give up on deciding how good we’re doing by comparing ourselves to how other people are doing? I’d like to think we get better at avoiding it, but it’s still there. Checking how other families run traditions. Eying what someone else is driving. Comparing our vacation to where someone else goes.

Why should it make a difference? If you’re having a good time or content with what you have, what should it matter if someone else has more or owns something that’s nicer than what you have?

It’s an easy principle to spot when you’re looking at Middle Schoolers trying to keep up with each other. Kind of hard to see in your daily life however. (Ironically, I’d say a lot of Middle Schoolers would look at the things adults use to compare themselves and be just as bewildered by how in the world the adults can actually care about such silly things . . .)

I suppose the first step is to recognize you have a problem. Step two is to try and consciously avoid falling into that trap. Here’s hoping I can get better at that.

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