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Challenge: Life Changes

Navigating the Future While Leaning into the Now

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For a little family, we’re in the middle of some pretty big decisions. Over the course of the next few months, we may be moving out of our beloved home and starting a major remodel on family land. Our youngest will be starting his first year of preschool while our oldest wraps up her last year there. We have career shifts on the horizon, two major family weddings next fall, and a host of other choices and forks in the road that we’ll have to decide upon.

As such, I’ve begun to think about the future so much more than I used to. I stay awake at night thinking about where our kids will go to college, who their future mates will be, if they’ll live near us or halfway around the world, and what kinds of interests and passions they’ll cultivate into careers. It’s the weight of two tiny worlds, and it can be more than overwhelming when I think of being at the matriarch at the helm of it all.

Yet, right as I drift off to sleep, my mind still abuzz with concerns, questions, anxieties and apprehensions, I hear my two-year-old son mumbling in his sleep. I tiptoe upstairs to check on him and he’s sweetly slumbering, still clutching his beloved “Tweet Tweet” stuffed bird that a kind waiter gave us one day last year when he was having a particularly tough time eating dinner at a local restaurant. My old tank top, worn and ragged from years of being grabbed, dragged, sniffed and cuddled, sits just to the side of his tiny fists. I lean over his crib and breathe him in. He smells like baby shampoo and our laundry detergent, and I’m instantly at peace.

Then, I visit my daughter’s room. She has her own personal jungle of stuffed animals around her and it’s just about the sweetest thing I can imagine. She, too, is clutching her favorite toy, her mousy bangs hanging over her face and her covers tossed off. I quietly shut their doors and go back downstairs. Those brief, fleeting moments were enough to recharge and reassure me. I don’t have it all figured out, and it’s unlikely that I ever will. I’ll probably always fret over them and worry about making the right decisions. It’s in my nature and it’s in my blood.

However, I have to remember that right now, they’re two and four. They love nothing more than to come downstairs in their pajamas, eat a big bowl of oatmeal, and watch their favorite cartoons in the morning. They adore it when I set up the sprinkler, take them to storytime at the library, and take them to our favorite barbecue restaurant for chicken and dumplings on Tuesday afternoons. I don’t have to figure out the universe tonight, and I don’t have to worry right now about whether they’ll be good at math or science one day, if they’ll find good friends, if they’ll come to me with everything, and if I’ll be the kind of mother they always need.

The short of it is that yes, I will be. I know I will be because I already am. When I was expecting my daughter, I went almost two months before finally taking a test because I missed all of the signs. Becoming a mother wasn’t on my horizon just yet, and I couldn’t see farther down the road than that next weekend, where I had big plans to sleep in as late as possible. The idea that I could be carrying a life was so foreign to me that I brushed everything off and kept thinking about myself. I needed to finish that big work proposal due on Thursday. I needed to renew my notary license so it wouldn’t slip. I needed to finish that television series and stay up late just because I could. I was living in the now so much that I couldn’t see a few yards ahead of me. Yet, life had something gorgeous and unexpected to hand my way and eight months later, we greeted her with wide grins and hearts so full. I went from living solely in the present to finding it difficult to focus on any task that didn’t have long-term significance.

Now? I’m learning to dance in the in-between. We’re not quite where we want to be just yet and I’m unsure about everything on a daily basis. Yet, as long as we’re doing our best and loving our hardest, I know we’re going to be just fine. We’ll have mess-ups and setbacks along the way, I’m sure of it. Yet, I’m equally sure that we’ll find our way through any mud and murk. Just like we did when we were first figuring it all out, and just like we’ll continue to do.

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