Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
In the Blink of an EyeShari McStay
I’m in the “What’s next is not now” season with my recent college grad and my rising college junior.
With my graduate, I could be letting my mind spin with all the thoughts of what lies ahead. The NEXT. Will she get a teaching job? Where will she get a teaching job? Will she live at home for a bit, or in her own apartment right away?
And, oh…she might go to graduate school in a year or two, so maybe we get a little more time. And so on.
Instead I choose to keep myself grounded in the NOW. Now we are enjoying summer, with our whole family home under the same roof. This season is extremely precious, like every season when we’re in it. Maybe this one packs a little more preciousness, given that soon my oldest will be out there in the real (non-school) world.
So as we do all the ordinary summer things we enjoy (grabbing coffee, working out, taking walks, going to farmer’s markets), I’m paying a little more attention. Trying to not think about my to-do list or even what we’ll make for dinner, but to really notice my time with my girl.
Does my mind still wander sometimes? Of course! I just try to reign it in and refocus, and that’s the best any of us can do.
With my son, the soon-to-be college junior, the fact that we’re past the halfway point of his summer vacation has me doing a bit more “reigning in” of my wandering-ahead thoughts. I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too. At the start of the long summer break, it’s easy to sink into the long stretch of time with our kids. But the closer we get to the day we'll take them back, it feels like there’s a countdown clock in our heads.
I counter every thought that reminds me “Only seven weeks until he starts school!” with "He's here with me now." I linger over morning coffee with him. I hug him as he heads off to his summer job at the local mini golf place. I bring a special lunch and iced latte to him at work just because I feel like it!
When we really pay attention to these ordinary moments, we start to see them as not-so-ordinary gifts. Thinking in terms of the many little ways we can enjoy each day with our kids, instead of only looking at big blocks of time or special planned events, can help us feel as if we’re stretching out time.
All of this doesn’t mean we won’t experience the longing to hold onto the NOW that we’re in. From the instant we become mothers, we feel the pull. Going back and forth between wishing our current moment or season of motherhood would never end, to just wanting to get through it.
As Mom to my precious young adults, I've experienced many such pulls. I know I missed some NOW moments in the high school years simply because I was worrying about what life would be like when they went to college.
And since they've been in college, I've realized it wasn't any of the things I'd worried about. In fact, it's been amazing all around. Our relationships have grown and deepened in the most beautiful ways. Furthermore, I have grown in ways I'd never imagined, too. I’ve discovered some things I used to do just now and then, like writing, have become new passions!
Whatever season you’re in...be in THAT season. There will be treasures, and challenges, that come NEXT. Yes, there will be things we miss from previous seasons. We don’t know what waits for us in the next.
But next is not now. If we can keep grounded in the nows, we will enjoy them so much more, and create more vivid and vibrant memories to carry with us into all of the nexts.
Big choices — and big changes — are on the horizon for your senior and your entire family.