By Beth Demme
There we were, cuddled up in the big rocking recliner. I held my sweet baby as he sucked on his thumb and his eyelids grew heavy. I felt the weight and warmth of him against my arms. I sang to him and studied his face.
He was eleven months old and we had been home from Russia for only a few days. He opened his brown eyes and found my gaze, making sure I was still there, and then fell back into sleep. As it turned out, this became our pattern and I rocked him to sleep every night for more than two years.
In those evenings together, I planned his entire life.
As he, and later his sister, moved from baby to toddler to child and now tween, my planning continued. Lately, though, I find I’m in planning mode instead of enjoying today.
On the one hand, I want to be fully present in each moment. On the other hand, I’d like to design those moments to produce specific outcomes.
My motives aren’t bad (I only want the best for my family), but I see now that my methods involve a lot of misplaced energy. Instead of focusing on enjoying the moment, I’m spending my time feeding into the illusion of control.
Does that ever happen to you? Do you ever lose track of the joy of today because you’re focused on tomorrow (or next month or next year)?
Jesus tells his disciples: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow brings enough worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34) He also asks them a pointed question: “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Luke 12:25)
In other words, worrying about the future is wasted effort, it doesn’t accomplish anything.
Worse than that, being hyper-focused on the future can transmit a message of conditional love.
Worrying about how everything in their lives will turn out, tells my children that results are what really matters. Instead of sending that message, I want my children to know the freedom of unconditional love.
In an effort to enjoy each day more, here’s what I’m trying to remember:
I don’t actually want my children to have an easy life or a “perfect” life.
My prayer for them is a full-life. A life with a sense of accomplishment and purpose. A life filled with love (received and given), a lot of joy, only minor regrets, and ideally no prison time.
(Don’t worry kids, if you are ever put in prison Mommy will visit you every weekend. But please make sure it isn’t one of those foreign prisons; those places are really dirty and don’t have cable TV.)
Every parent has ideas of who and what their children will be. We study them from infancy and ascribe qualities to them. That’s what I did all those nights rocking my babies to sleep. But I can’t design a mold and force them into it, not if I want them to experience true joy.
My job, my privilege, is to offer unconditional love. I am the safety net their imperfections cannot pierce. Afterall, how do I even know what perfection is when I am so imperfect myself?
The truth is, my children are amazing people and I love being a part of their lives. I want to make sure I communicate those feelings to them. I don’t want them to think I care only about the future. I have to treat today like it matters more than tomorrow.