I stumbled onto a website last year, where you write a letter to your future self and then choose the date it gets sent to your email. I excitedly wrote mine and I just received it today. Wow! What a blast to read what I wrote — and not just because I can’t seem to remember anything these days!
In the letter, I asked myself several questions: follow-ups to what I was dealing with/ struggling with, upset and worried about. You know: the usual stuff. Want to know the best part? It was a rush seeing that I had moved past so many things that appeared monumental in January of 2014. Things that took up so much of my bandwidth at the time, yet a year later, I could see how little they ended up mattering. The gift of time and hindsight certainly showed me that what felt like an enormous boulder in the path of life actually was a handful of pebbles.
The whole exercise got me thinking about raising kids. No matter the age of the child, they are always in a particular stage of development; and many times, that stage is UGLY. When will my son stop bedwetting? Biting kids? Teasing his sister? I want you to think right now about something one of your children is doing that’s making you bonkers. Then think ahead a bit; will this still be a big deal a year from now? Most likely not. Most likely, it won’t matter in a day or two.
Here’s what I’m getting at: even in the heat of the moment, we have a choice. We can dramatize every little thing into a major issue, or we can stop overreacting. Does your child refuse to brush her teeth? Most likely, she’ll come around. It’s unlikely that she’ll become the young adult that you keep picturing: the one with a gummy smile, sans teeth. Is your son playing video games way more than you are comfortable with? Although I’m with you on this one, most likely he’ll get restless, and move on to a new activity. I can’t tell you the nights I’ve lain awake, ruminating on some quirk of my son’s that I was certain would cause him to be unemployable and therefore unable to move out of my house (horror of horrors). A steady chronicler, I’ve looked back on old journal entries and been able to laugh at how hung up I was over what turned out to be, as they say, a hill of beans.
So, do me a favor. Write yourself two letters. The first one is for you; talk to yourself as a person, not a parent, 12 months into the future. Send yourself lots of sweet talk and love. Then write a separate letter to your parental self. Write down the issues of today so that you can ask yourself in January of 2016 if they are still lingering around. Lay it all out there; spare nothing. After all, you don’t have to share this with anyone else. Then, set both letters aside. And in a year, when you read those (hopefully) forgotten words, let them sink it. I bet you’ll find that you, too, can laugh; that your worries will fade quickly, and you’ll be able to focus on new, bigger, and better things! In the meantime, here’s a small step you can take when you start to become overly anxious: tell yourself to knock it off and that tomorrow’s just around the corner. See you there!