There is a look that people give you sometimes when you’re complaining about something that you really have no right to be complaining about.
It’s the look one of my former co-workers gave me when I mentioned how hard my pregnancy with Ruby was after I’d had a miscarriage – she’d had four miscarriages, followed by the death of her twins who were born at 21 weeks, followed by a failed adoption.
It’s the look one of my friends gave me when I said that I still had PTSD from Ruby’s four-day hospital stay in 2008 – he lost his daughter in October after several years of brutal cancer treatment.
It’s the look people gave me pre-2006 when they complained about their kids and I’d try to sympathize by saying something about my dog – and the look I now give childless people who complain about their pets when I am complaining about my kids.
And it’s the look I give people when they say something like, “My daughter is going away to camp for four days, and I can’t stand it!”
The people on the receiving end of the look aren’t really assholes – at least, I don’t think I am, and I don’t think anyone I’ve ever given that look to is.
Just because things can always be worse and harder does not mean that they’re not bad or hard, and bad or hard to you might be an OK baseline for someone else. My pregnancy was stressful. Having Ruby in the hospital for four days was traumatic. And being away from your kid for several days can be a true struggle.
As someone who has spent literal weeks away from my daughter at a stretch, though, it can be hard for me to conjure up that much sympathy for someone who can’t deal with a long weekend apart.
This summer has been especially hard, as Ruby went away to camp for three weeks, came home for one week, and then left to spend the rest of the summer with her father in St. Louis. By the time I get her back for school orientation in early August, I will have had her for only two of the 10 weeks of summer vacation.
That’s fine, of course. She is old enough now to have some input on where she wants to spend her time, and I am still able to write her letters, text her, FaceTime her, send her care packages. There are, clearly, way worse fates than not seeing your kid all summer: I have a happy, healthy daughter, which means I’ve already pretty much hit the jackpot. I am lucky and blessed and grateful.
But still: I miss her. Milk lasts forever without her here to drink it. The laundry volume is drastically slashed. I even miss the sisterly squabbling between her and Georgia. It’s so quiet with her gone.
I can’t wait to have her back. Until then, I’ll be giving that look to anyone who says, “You’re so lucky to get a break.”