Looking ahead is both good and bad

Sometimes when I think about all the things we have ahead of us in our parenting lives, I want to scream or cry or have a panic attack.  I think of navigating playground issues, rotten teachers, mean girls, ornery boys, middle school drama, dating, driving, braces, academics, colleges…the list could go on and on and on.  Thinking about how we’ll ever get through it and even afford half of the stuff makes my heart pound and my breath come short.  So, I stop myself. I remind myself that I just have to deal with the present.  I have only to navigate our day and our immediate future like filling out registration forms for pre-K next fall.

And most of the time, that’s exactly what I need.  Most of the time, I need to just focus on the present.  But, it’s a precarious balance because sometimes I need also some perspective that this phase isn’t the most important phase ever.  I need perspective that this won’t last forever when the days are challenging.  So, I look for balance.

Lately I’ve been thinking of all the things that we young mothers worry about.  It starts from the day we learn we’re pregnant.  We worry about what we eat and drink, we worry if we feel too sick, we worry if we don’t feel sick enough.  We worry.  Then once the baby is born a whole slew of new worries start.  We can put enormous pressure on ourselves about things like breastfeeding.  I’ve done it.  I’ve been there and done that.  Only more recently did I realize that in 10 years, nobody in my life will really care.  My kids sure won’t be walking around thanking me daily that I made sure they got breastmilk as long as possible. They won’t care.  In fact, my son (who was able to nurse unlike my daughter who I had to exclusively pump for) will not even want to talk about breastfeeding.  In 10 years, he’ll be appalled to talk about anything relating to my female anatomy.  He won’t be mad that I had to switch to formula around 10 months when I lost my milk supply after surgery.  It won’t matter one bit to him.

My kiddos on Easter Sunday. Right now they are 4-1/2 and almost 15 months. We've got a lot ahead of us and a fair amount behind us.

And that’s the perspective that I sometimes need when I start beating myself up.  That’s the perspective that I need when I start to worry and fret over every decision.  That’s what I need to remember when I start guilt tripping myself for letting my daughter have extra time with her grandparents and skipping one dance class.  In 10 years, she won’t remember the routine she’s learning for this dance class (heck, I’m not sure if she’ll even remember it for the recital next month!).  But, she will remember the times she has with her grandparents.

This phase that we’re in right now is temporary.  I also need to remember that to not only stop beating myself up over every decision and placing way more importance on them than necessary, but also to cherish every single moment I can.  I got choked up last week when I was listening to my son babbling in baby talk.  It’s not going to be long until he’s using real words.  I look forward to that day and know it will help ease his frustration when he can communicate with us, but I also know that I will miss the baby talk.  I remember my daughter’s own language she had.  I love having wonderful, funny conversations with her now, but I miss the babble sometimes.  I will miss it with my son.  Each milestone he reaches, I feel an ache.  I know this is the last time we’ll have a baby who babbles.  This is the last time we’ll teach a baby to walk.  This is the last.  It’s bittersweet and it aches.

But then I start looking ahead to the things that are coming.  I start looking ahead to the things that don’t overwhelm me to think about.  I start looking forward to really getting to know my children and who they are and who they will become.  I look forward to all the memories we have to make together.  I look forward to family vacations.  I look forward to sharing hobbies with them like fishing.  I look forward to watching comic book movies together.  I look forward to playing games together.  I look forward to so very many things.

It will all go by too fast.  It already is going by too fast.  Yet, at the same time it sometimes seem painfully slow as I think of how far our journey has yet to go.  Right now it’s hard to imagine my children as young adults and what they’ll be like when I’m working hard to hang onto to enjoying them at 4 and 1.  It’s hard to imagine that one day they’ll be off on their own and my snuggle times will end.

And so I’m left balancing my feelings.  I’m left balancing both looking forward to and dreading the future.  I’m left balancing enjoying the present and surviving the present.  It’s back and forth over and over. It’s hard and wonderful all at once.

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