A few weeks ago I took a two-day business trip to Washington D.C. For many moms, an occasional/future business trip is no big deal but this was a BIG deal to our family. It was the first time my husband had been alone overnight (on a school night, no less) with all four kids. It was also the first trip I’d made away from my youngest ever. It was a busy trip, with no time for sightseeing. Still, I was excited for my solo flights (flying is one of my favorite all-time things to do) and some quiet time in my hotel room.
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I enjoyed those moments and also waking up and walking out the door five minutes later to get a cup of coffee. That I drank HOT and in one sitting. But I also found myself telling the woman in the elevator that her curly-haired four-year-old son looked just like mine did at that age and I also wished my daughter could be there to smell the hotel shampoo (which she is fond of doing). On a personal level, it was a very fulfilling trip but I missed my family more than I anticipated.
Just before my flight home, I had the privilege of meeting Lisa Graham Keegan, a temporary colleague of mine and a school choice advocate. She is also Arizona’s former Superintendent of Public Instruction, an author and just about the nicest person I’ve ever met. My time with her was brief but so many things she said swirled through my head as I closed my eyes on my flight home.
Before I left the airport restaurant, Lisa signed a copy of her book “Simple Choices: Thoughts on Choosing Environments that Support who Your Child is Meant to Be” and gave it to me. It’s an awesome book — and I will likely elaborate later after my 10th reading — but more than anything, it was something she said in our meeting that has stuck with me these past few weeks and made me reflect on my own role as a parent, wife and individual.
In talking about her pre-divorce days as a mother with small children, she said she worried about what ending her marriage would mean for the long-term future outlook for her kids. Paraphrasing her words, she worried that her kids would glide through life, seemingly undisturbed, and then walk into a restaurant 20 years later with a sawed-off shotgun and go on a rampage. A wise advisor, listening to her concerns, asked her this:
“If you knew your kids would be okay in 20 years, what would you do?”
She chose the path that meant ending her marriage. Now more than 20 years later, she has her answer in five grown, well-adjusted children from a combined family. When I talked about my own family circumstances, starting with my past-life as a single parent, Lisa told me I reminded her of herself 20 years ago. HUGE compliment aside, it made me think about my own family in 20 years — particularly my kids.
I’m not considering divorce (breathe, honey) in the future, but there other things in my life that intimidate me because I worry what the outcome might mean for my kids.
In the Future, Like…
Being too successful in my career.
Being too successful as a writer — at their expense (since they are my favorite topics).
Cutting off bedtime when I’m ready, not vice versa, on nights I need some extra time for myself.
Cutting off bedtime when I’m ready on the nights that I need some extra time with my husband.
Worrying too much about how I look in the form of workouts that take away time with them and pricey face regimens that mean less money in their college funds.
Worrying too little about their minor cuts and bruises.
Letting them watch too much TV on the days I need to work or think without constant interruptions.
Letting my voice go even one decibel above my normal tone on the days that parenting tasks irritate me.
Before I was a mother, selfishness came naturally and without much notice on my part. Now it seems that everything I do without a direct positive impact on my kids has an internal struggle attached.
Will they be okay in 20 years because of the decisions I make today?
If I had a crystal ball, or a time machine, and could guarantee that my kids would all be okay in the future, what would I do that I’m not doing now?
I’m not sure if these are even questions that have a definitive answer but rather, they are a way to look at life and really analyze the obstacles that hold us back. How many are real — and how many are our own fears protected under the guise of being a parent?
If you knew your kids would be okay in the future/20 years, what would you do?
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Category: Life Changes