Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You: A Lively Tour Through the Dark Side of the Natural World by Riskin Dan

Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You: A Lively Tour Through the Dark Side of the Natural World by Riskin Dan

Author:Riskin, Dan [Riskin, Dan]
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
Publisher: Touchstone
Published: 2014-03-04T00:00:00+00:00

Envy is a big part of having a new baby, because you’re constantly comparing notes with other new parents. For Shelby, it was most pronounced when she spoke with other mothers who didn’t have C-sections. In the first few months after Sam was born we talked about it often. It didn’t matter what our doctor had said about the umbilical cord. Shelby couldn’t seem to shake the gut feeling that if she’d just been tougher or more patient, somehow her C-section could have been avoided. For so many of the mothers we’d talked to, it had just worked out, so Shelby’s instincts kept telling her that she’d done something wrong. With a couple of years between her and the experience now, she’s not so sensitive about it as she once was, but I know that it still bugs her.

Now the comparisons we make with other families tend to be less about childbirth and more focused on child development. And we know that other parents are making comparisons too. Sam woke up four times again last night, but our friend’s kid, Julia, has been sleeping through the night for two months already. Sam’s learned to count to three, but Olivia can count backward from ten. Shelby and I know that the rate of development is different for different kids (and we’ve read several books and scientific papers about development—we’re scientists after all), but it’s still really hard not to have an emotional reaction sometimes when you hear something about another person’s kid. When Sam’s ahead, we feel smug, and when Sam’s behind, we speculate that it’s only because other aspects of his development are so advanced. But I’m embarrassed that we make those comparisons in the first place.

It’s so stupid, really. Shelby and I know people whose kids have had cancer, for God’s sake. We have friends who have miscarried. You would think that we could just count our blessings and move on. Sam is a healthy, happy kid and he’s doing great. But there’s something about the experience of raising a kid that makes you listen very carefully to see what’s going on with all the kids around you.

I suppose that from an evolutionary perspective, paying attention to the parenting experiences of other people is a good way to see how well your child is doing. After all, as we discussed in the chapter on greed, your kid is going to have to compete against other kids down the road, so how he compares to those kids is going to matter someday. But worrying about how many words Sam knows at eighteen months compared to the Joneses’ kid is a waste of energy. I really don’t like that I experience envy at all. Envy has been described as “feeling negatively about someone else’s success,” and I don’t want that to be part of how I raise Sam.

Envy is part of the human experience everywhere in the world, and it can motivate all kinds of crimes, from vandalism to murder. But there’s really no better symptom of envy than theft.


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