31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Stop Pining For The Future And Learn To Embrace Present!

Single with Children: Stop wishing for 'someday'

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 10/23/02

Have you ever had a case of the "it will be great when this happens?" If you have a child, surely during some exasperated moment of his or her development, you found yourself saying how much easier it will be when your baby learns to crawl, never imagining the potential land mines that abound in your living room, the hallway and, most disturbing of all, the kitchen.

You didn't look ahead quite far enough to understand how many possible accident-laden areas would be fair game for a baby with a quick set of knees and a curiosity that would make any feline feel ashamed.

Perhaps the milestone lying in wait is when the baby learns to walk and one day discovers the door. Suddenly you're out on the street, panic-stricken and looking like an escapee from the locked unit of the mental health center, wondering where that little one has wandered off to, performing that developmental milestone you just couldn't wait for her to accomplish.

The list goes on, and sometimes it seems that we're constantly waiting for our ever-growing offspring to achieve and perfect the next milestone on the growth totem pole. We don't always anticipate the pitfalls and potential downside to each new step.

And what's even more unfortunate is that we might be wasting a perfectly wonderful "here and now" by wishing for a "someday" that will come soon enough and many times is not as blissful as we imagine.

My children's milestones now come with a myriad of potentially gray hair-producing side effects.

Events such as being allowed to drive in a car with one's friends to the mall with no adult required and certainly not invited. Or living in an apartment at the tender age of 19, requiring no permission or supervision from me or knowledge as to whom or what might be lurking in the same apartment complex.

Now, I'm not saying that gaining independence is a negative thing. I'm sincerely pleased and more than a little proud when I see my son and daughter meet new challenges that crop up. So far, they have given me no reason to question their judgment or wring my hands over their decisions. I feel blessed to be able to say this because I know a few parents who spend many nights in terror at the prospect of what their kids might be doing after the sun goes down and the headlights are turned on.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I don't worry, and I'm pretty darn talented at obsessing now and again. It comes with the territory of being a parent.

A co-worker brought her 2-week-old baby into the office the other day. I ran next door to admire the tiny infant and congratulate the proud, if slightly exhausted, mother. I was entranced by that baby. I immediately remembered the time when my own two kids were sitting contentedly in an infant carrier, cooing and checking out all the adults smiling, chatting away about how fast babies grow up.

I returned to my office and thought about all the milestones and events this mother will find herself waiting for: the time when this baby finally sleeps through the night; when it will learn to crawl; to walk; to sit upright in a bathtub; to dress herself; and to eat without the aid of a high chair and a plastic plate and spoon. There will be times when this new mother will get worn out from hunting the pacifier that is forever getting lost. She will be tired of walking through her living room and stepping on a painfully sharp Lego or building block. She will wonder what it will be like not to have to buy diapers anymore and imagine all the money she will save when the potty training is finally finished. I won't even go into the thrill of watching her child master a bicycle and take off the training wheels, but you know what I'm talking about.

I sat at my desk, doing a quick rerun of all those milestones yet to be met, and suddenly my vision became blurry because of the tears that appeared out of nowhere. It really wasn't out of nowhere. It was from fond memories of all of the things I have been blessed to have a role in. The same things yet to happen between this mother and her brand-new daughter. I've been there. I've done that. I'd go back and do it all again in a second. I felt envious.

As I sat there reliving precious memories from raising my two children, the one theme that kept returning is that I wished so much to share with her the wisdom to savor every second of what lies ahead and gently tell her that even on the nights when what her body craves most is sleep, to hold on to every moment of this wonderful, wild and enriching journey she has embarked upon. I wanted to tell her not to wish one second of it away. Don't long for the independence so much because it will come sooner rather than later.

I am reminded every day, as my son is one month away from turning 16, that I can either spend it wishing (and worrying) for the next steps, or savor and squeeze as much time as I can with him in the "here and now." I won't pretend that I'd love to find a way to stop the clock for just a few years as he sits on the sofa perusing the classified ads for the car he imagines acquiring in the not too distant future.

Of course, that day is looming and as I'm trying to figure out a way to put on the brakes, he's dreaming of a four-wheeled, very-cool car that comes equipped with a gas pedal that will move him forward, eventually into full, independent adulthood. I'll share his joy when the time arrives and he is handed a set of keys that will boost him further toward his goal, but I must confess, I wouldn't mind going back to a time when I walked through a dark living room in the middle of the night and stepped on a Lego block that had fallen away from a castle we had spent a rainy afternoon building.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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