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.)