Looking Ahead

School officially started this week, and all of the looking ahead has got me thinking lately about my kids growing up and my home emptying out in the years ahead. I can’t help thinking about it when I stack the high school textbooks and pull out the graphing calculators and lab books. My children have grown so much in the last year. In a span of five short years, two will be in college.

When our oldest child hit middle school a few years ago, Rob and I began dreaming of what our second half could look like. We wanted to be one of those couples who said the second half had been as much fun as the first. We didn’t want to suddenly look across the table at each other as retirees and realize the only things we talked about were in the past. So we paid attention to where our interests intersected, and we began to build dreams for the future.

Those dreams are all tarnished now. When I try to salvage them, they don’t shine with the same beauty and anticipation they used to. For half my life, I dreamed in tandem with Rob. It’s not that I don’t know how to dream alone, it’s just that I never wanted to. That’s not the way it was supposed to be. I never wanted to do this life without him. Even a year since his death, I don’t know how to build a future without him. But now I have to learn. I must let go of the dreams I had with Rob and find other ones to pick up. Whether I like it or not, I have to look forward.

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As a homeschooling mom, I’ve charted my kids’ academic course since they were little; looking forward is something that comes naturally. As I get them ready for school this fall, I’m trying to balance looking ahead with living in the present. Letting go of the dreams I had with Rob is giving me new perspective on planning. I find this year I’m planning less. I’m making fewer commitments. I want to leave space open for hope, for the good things that I can’t see yet — for my children and for me. I’m a firm believer that if you can predict sorrow you can also predict joy. Your perspective colors your days. The truth is that my story is still being written. It’s a faulty assumption to presume it will be tragic.

In a few short years, the conversations around our dinner table will be about college tours and SAT prep. I’ve loved every stage of parenting, and I know I’ll love that stage too. Rob and I talked a lot about our kids’ college years, and I can’t wait to share his wisdom with them when the time comes. For now, though, it’s the first week of September — just the beginning of a new year. A new year that, try as I might, I cannot see into very far. No need to get ahead of myself. Instead of building castles in the air, this school year, I’m going to work toward building a marvelous life in the here and now — living in this moment I’m given, looking ahead with hope not fear, trusting that good things are in store for my children and for me as the days go by.

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