I’ve spent so much of my life looking ahead. Pressing on to the bend in the road—the next goal, the next project. In some ways, that’s okay. It’s good to plan for the future and look forward to the life ahead of us. But for me this has involved some faulty thinking.
I’ve lived with an idea that the next stage would be perfect. It started early. In college, I thought once I was on my own I’d have it all figured out. We all think that to some extent, but this perception continued as my life went on.
When I get married, it will be the real thing.
Once we build the new house, I’ll be able to keep it clean and organized.
When we have kids, we’ll raise them right.
Once we’re out of the baby stage, I’ll be on top of things.
I’m going to stop mindlessly scrolling Facebook—soon.
If I can stop yelling at the kids now, they won’t even remember it.
Once they’re in school, I’ll have more time to . . .
You get the picture. I would be an improved me, a better parent, more organized, more disciplined—at some time in the future. Maybe it’s the disease of perfectionism. I’m not doing things perfectly now, so I won’t even try. I’ll just browse the Internet and tell myself things will be perfect next year. That’s when everything will magically fall into place and I’ll be able to be what I think I should be.
But that’s a lie.
My life is happening now, in all its glorious, redeemable imperfection.
Perhaps the thing that’s finally making this real to me is a dark-haired beauty waltzing around my house. My firstborn is finished with little girlhood. Done. She will be ten soon and I don’t have the ability to go back and parent her again. Those days are gone. She has been mothered imperfectly and it has shaped her for better or for worse. That doesn’t mean I’m finished, of course. And it doesn’t mean I’ve done a terrible job. But more than half her growing up years are over. I spent a lot of them thinking I’d do better . . . soon.
My boy is shooting up at an alarming rate. He’s starting first grade in three weeks. We are raising him now, not at some arbitrary date in the future when I learn to control my temper and stop being distracted. Now. Every day I am making choices that affect him.
But I don’t want to continue with the idea that I will be perfect at some point. I won’t be. By thinking that some day I will be able to do this perfectly, I’m missing out on now. I’m missing the little ways I can do better. I can put down the phone. I can look into my child’s eyes as they speak to me. I can take a deep breath and count to ten before I respond. I can try to see things from their perspective. I can be present right now. I can be grateful for them and choose joy.