How do you do the next right thing?

Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins

Mamas of grown-up kids, I would just like to say: I don’t understand how you did that.

I mean, I understand the growing part. I understand how they start out like squishy little peaches, and you feed and water them, and then one day they’re taller than you are and are “borrowing” your shoes.

That part I understand.

But the part where they turn into thoughtful, fun, endlessly interesting young adults who you could spend hours talking with, and then we’re supposed to send them out into the world? That part is terrible.

In related news, college acceptance letters have begun arriving for my oldest daughter.

My self-directed, witty and sparkling, creative and brave oldest daughter. It’s like these colleges think that just because they have “really cool writing programs” and “a great design department” they’re allowed to steal her away. (Yes, okay, she did apply. I did sign the forms. I don’t see how this is relevant to my angst.)

It’s just awful, this growing-up thing.

I’m crazy excited for her, but it just seems unfair that there should be amazing things for our kids to learn and do and become out in the world, when I would like to keep enjoying their presence all of the days.

And I guess I could try to make that happen if I thought it was best, but of course I don’t. I know there are good things for all of us in this next stage. Sometimes the next right thing is just a hard thing.

What’s your next right thing?

Maybe for you it’s joining a co-op again even though the last one was terrible. Maybe it’s letting go of the old system that isn’t working, even though you’ve invested so much energy into it. Maybe it’s deciding to homeschool your kids for the very first time.

What do you do when the next right thing feels a little bit impossible? (I’m seriously asking. What do you do?!! Give me your magic sauce in the comments.)

Here’s what I’m doing right now:

Be where you are

The next thing isn’t happening yet, and if I focus on what’s coming, I’m going to miss what’s happening NOW. Instead of imagining every possible future scenario, I’m practicing taking deep breaths and staying in this moment, doing the next right thing for TODAY.

Tomorrow I’ll do the next right thing for tomorrow. Eventually we’ll get to the big things, and we’ll meet them then.

Get a (positive) outside opinion

This is not the time to ask your glass-half-empty, “realist” friend for input. This is the time to ask someone you trust to tell you why this next thing is going to be great, and how they know you’re up for it.

One of the best parts of my daughter’s college-and-scholarship-application process has been getting letters of recommendation. I’ve cried reading every one. They’re all speaking the best truths about who she is and where she’s going, and reading them makes me wish we would all write each other letters of rec at least once a year.

(I will write one for you right now. Here you go: To whom it may concern, This person is dedicated, courageous, and willing to try. She endures. She doesn’t always know the right thing to do, but she shows up, she speaks the truth as she sees it, and she listens well. I cannot recommend her highly enough for whatever the next right thing is in her life. Sincerely, Me.)

That’s what you need right now. You need someone who loves you to tell you the truth about who you are and what you can do.

Remember you’ve been here before

You probably haven’t been HERE, exactly. I’ve never had a kid thinking about going off to college before. But we HAVE done hard things, and we’ve survived.

You’ve faced the fire and come out on the other side: when your kid needed more than you thought you could give; when you got the news you absolutely did not want to hear; when you realized you had to figure things out your own way.

You’ve done hard things.

You can do this one, too.

So tell me, how do you face YOUR next right things when they’re hard? (Even if they’re good-but-hard.)

About Melissa Camara Wilkins

Melissa Camara Wilkins is a homeschooling mom of six in Southern California. She writes about being who you were made to be and letting go of the rest.


  1. This has been my montra lately. Just do the next (right) thing. I love it applied to the big things in life too. So beautiful and true and empowering. Thanks for writing.

  2. I wish I even knew what the next right thing was . Sometimes it is just so very hard to know. This post is quite timely, today is a hard day. A very hard day.

    • I hear that, Cindy. I feel that way so often–especially because with so many personalities in the house, the next right thing for one person might be the wrong thing for another. May tomorrow be a new beginning for us both. xo.
      Melissa Camara Wilkins’s latest post: We Need to Talk

  3. And I totally cried through this. My kids are getting older and it is getting harder even though I am raising them to leave and be awesome. I don’t want them to leave and be awesome. Doing the next thing sucks sometimes. Okay coffee then the next right thing.
    Jen’s latest post: Unboxing STEM Deluxe Club Box From Steve Spangler-It’s Magical!

  4. What Jen, above, said, only I opted for tea. A timely post.

  5. Susan P says:

    My next right thing is moving this summer and I’ll feeling SO sad about all the good things we are leaving, and anxious about all the unknowns we are facing!

  6. This is wonderful advice. My oldest is only 10 and I’m already freaking out a tiny bit about her growing up.
    I think getting through the hard, but right, things really comes down to an outpouring of grace. And as much as I wish grace could be stored up and saved away, we only get it just when we need it…so I try to take comfort in the realization that just because I’m freaking out now doesn’t negate the fact that I’ll have grace when it’s most needed.
    Faith’s latest post: The Heroic Minute: How skipping the snooze button can transform your life every single day

  7. Perfect timing. Thanks!
    One right thing at a time.
    And you are totally correct- other momma friends who have survived with joy are totally the BEST thing right now!

  8. Wonderful advice and very relevant for me. After 20 years my homeschool journey has just ended (as of three weeks ago)- unexpectedly early. My youngest should have one more year left of homeschooling and she was fully planning on doing so. Then she was going to homeschool part time and do an outside course part time. Then she ended up starting university. And it is definitely the next best thing for her. And I’m enjoying seeing her grow into it. Lucky for me it is a local university so she is still living at home. But it leaves me scrambling to figure out what my next best thing is and how to make that happen.

  9. I have two that are out in the world. We don’t stop being parents the moment they leave, it is just different and sometimes harder because they really are doing it on their own regardless of whether we agree or not:) The most encouraging thing I can tell you is that no matter WHAT keep the communication open and withhold judgement. My eldest has said many times that knowing there was support for him even miles away has made all the difference. I still have one at home and several years before she leaves the nest, so I am practicing now trusting that who she is and the love we’ve given will be a foundation she can lean on.

  10. I’ve been in the midst of this. My oldest daughter is away at bible college and I miss her terribly. Her being homesick doesn’t help either. BUT I know this is where God wants her, and so does she. It’s what we’ve raised them to do. Go out into the world and share their love for Jesus and His love for them. I couldn’t have asked for more, but it doesn’t mean I don’t yearn for her to be home with me.

  11. My ‘next right thing’ started last week, and it involves letting go of someone that I desperately want to hold onto. Not like most of the comments in this thread about kids, because I am past that. But letting go of a relationship of which I DO NOT WANT TO LET GO! But I believe without a doubt that it is the right thing… that might be the only comfort that I currently have from which to draw strength to continue doing what I know needs to be done.

  12. Hi Melissa!
    Great article! My three are all grown and I have two grandchildren. I heartily agree with what Emmie posted.
    If this is any help: When my oldest son was leaving for college I was lamenting to my sister (whose son is older). About him being away at college, she said: Oh you’ll love it; it will really broaden your life! She was right. It’s a different stage, but fun and enriching (and hard!).
    At the same time, my friend’s son was serving in the Marines in Iraq. That helped me rein in any complaints about my son being in college an hour and a half away!
    God will supply all you need! And you’ll actually enjoy a lot of the experience! God bless you!

  13. Both of my sons have grown, gone to college, and gotten married. I got through those days with a lot of prayer and a lot of coffee. But now it’s time for my first daughter to go to college. I know it shouldn’t be this much more traumatic, but it is! So, I am holding to my faith with a death grip, and taking one day at a time. (And mail ordering coffee by the ton😊)

  14. Erica Franklin says:

    I break it down in smaller pieces. I find one small part such as sitting my yoga clothes out for the next morning or organizing all my tack so that it is easier for me to grab my horse and have even a 20 minute ride. So I try to prepare the small details first!

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